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Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy, 27 

Science Fiction and the 
Prediction ot the Future 




Science Fiction and the Prediction 
of the Future 

Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy 

(a series edited by Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III) 

1 Worlds Apart? Dualism and Transgression 
in Contemporary Female Dystopias (Dunja M. Mohr, 2005) 

2 Tolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language (ed. Janet Brennan Croft, 2007) 

3 Culture, Identities and Technology in the Star Wars Films: Essays on 
the Two Trilogies (ed. Carl Silvio, Tony M. Vinci, 2007) 

4 The Influence of Star Trek on Television, Film and Culture (ed. Lincoln Geraghty, 2008) 

5 Hugo Gernshack and the Century of Science Fiction (Gary Westfahl, 2007) 

6 One Earth, One People: The Mythopoeic Fantasy Series of Ursula K. Le Guin, 

Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine VEngle and Orson Scott Card (Marek Oziewicz, 2008) 

7 The Evolution of Tolkien s Mythology: A Study 
of the History of Middle-earth (Elizabeth A. Whittingham, 2008) 

8 H. Beam Piper: A Biography (John F. Carr, 2008) 

9 Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction (Mordecai Roshwald, 2008) 

10 Lilith in a New Light: Essays on the George MacDonald Fantasy Novel (ed. Lucas H. Harriman, 2008) 

11 Feminist Narrative and the Supernatural: The Function of 
Fantastic Devices in Seven Recent Novels (Katherine J. Weese, 2008) 

12 The Science of Fiction and the Fiction of Science: Collected Essays on SF Storytelling 
and the Gnostic Imagination (Frank McConnell, ed. Gary Westfahl, 2009) 

13 Kim Stanley Robinson Maps the Unimaginable: Critical Essays (ed. William J. Burling, 2009) 
14 The Inter-Galactic Playground: A Critical Study 
of Childrens and Teens’ Science Eiction (Farah Mendlesohn, 2009) 

15 Science Fiction from Quebec: A Postcolonial Study (Amy J. Ransom, 2009) 

16 Science Fiction and the Two Cultures: Essays on Bridging the Gap Between 
the Sciences and the Humanities (ed. Gary Westfahl, George Slusser, 2009) 

17 Stephen R. Donaldson and the Modern Epic Vision: A Critical Study 
of the “Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” Novels (Christine Barkley, 2009) 

18 Ursula K. Le Gums Journey to Post-Feminism (Amy M. Clarke, 2010) 

19 Portals of Power: Magical Agency and Transformation in Literary Fantasy (Lori M. Campbell, 2010) 
20 The Animal Fable in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Bruce Shaw, 2010) 

21 Illuminating Tor chwood: Essays on Narrative, Character and Sexuality 
in the BBC Series (ed. Andrew Ireland, 2010) 

22 Comics as a Nexus of Cultures: Essays on the Interplay of Media, Disciplines and 
International Perspectives (ed. Mark Berninger, Jochen Ecke, Gideon Haberkorn, 2010) 

23 The Anatomy of Utopia: Narration, Estrangement and Ambiguity in 
More, Wells, Huxley and Clarke (Karoly Pinter, 2010) 

24 The Anticipation Novelists of 1950s French Science Fiction: Stepchildren 
of Voltaire (Bradford Lyau, 2010) 

25 The Twilight Mystique: Critical Essays 
on the Novels and Films (ed. Amy M. Clarke, Marijane Osborn, 2010) 

26 The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays 
on the Eiction (ed. Donald E. Morse, Kalman Matolcsy, 2011) 

27 Science Fiction and the Prediction of the Future: Essays on Foresight 
and Fallacy (ed. Gary Westfahl, Wong Kin Yuen, Amy Kit-sze Chan, 2011) 

28 Apocalypse in Australian Fiction and Film: A Critical Study (Roslyn Weaver, 2011) 

29 British Science Fiction Film and Television: Critical Essays 
(ed. Tobias Hochscherf, James Leggott, 2011) 

30 Cult Telefantasy Series: A Critical Analysis of The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, 

The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, Heroes, Doctor Who and Star Trek (Sue Short, 2011) 

Science Fiction 
and the Prediction 
of the Future 

Essays on Foresight and Fallacy 

Edited by 

Gary Westfahl, Wong Kin Yuen, 
and Amy Kit-sze Chan 

Critical Explorations in 
Science Fiction and Fantasy, 27 
Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III, series editors 

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers 
Jefferson, North Carolina, and London 

Also of Interest 

Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction (by Gary Westfahl; 
McFarland, 2007) 

Science Fiction and the Two Cultures: Essays on Bridging the Gap Between 
the Sciences and the Humanities (edited by Gary Westfahl and George 
Slusser; McFarland, 2009) 

The Science of Fiction and the Fiction of Science: Collected Essays on SF 
Storytelling and the Gnostic Imagination (by Frank McConnell, edited by 
Gary Westfahl; McFarland, 2009) 

Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data 

Science fiction and the prediction of the future : essays on 

foresight and fallacy / edited by Gary Westfahl, Wong Kin Yuen 
and Amy Kit-sze Chan. 

p. cm. — (Critical explorations in science fiction and 
fantasy ; 27) 

[Donald Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III, series editors] 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

ISBN 978-0-7864-5841-7 
softcover : 50# alkaline paper 

1. Science fiction films— History and criticism. 2. Science 
fiction — History and criticism. 3. Future in literature. 

4. Forecasting in literature. I. Westfahl, Gary. II. Yuen, 

Wong Kin. III. Chan, Amy Kit-sze. 

PN1995.9.S26S278 2011 

809.3' 876209 -dc22 2010048100 

British Library cataloguing data are available 

© 2011 Gary Westfahl, Wong Kin Yuen and Amy Kit-sze Chan. All 
rights reserved 

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form 
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying 
or recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, 
without permission in writing from the publisher. 

Cover illustration© 2011 EyeWire 

Manufactured in the United States of America 

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers 
Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640 
WWW. mcfarlandpub. com 

Table of Contents 

Introduction: Of Futures Imagined, and Futures Inhabited 

Gary Westfahl 1 

I. Cosmic Visions 

1. Pitfalls of Prophecy: Why Science Fiction So Often Fails to 

Predict the Future 

Gary Westfahl 9 

2. Emotional Dimensions of Transmimetic Fiction: Emotion, 

Aesthetics, Ethics, and Rhetoric in Tales of Tomorrow’s 
Science, Technology, and Technoscience 

Richard L. McKinney 23 

3. The Internet and the Anagogical Myths of Science Fiction 

Kirk Hampton and Carol MacKay 41 

4. Technobodies and the Anxieties of Performance 

Veronica Hollinger 52 

5. Places of Alterity in Science Fiction 

Richard L. McKinney 64 

II. The Practice of Prophecy 

6. Future City Toyko: 1909 and 2009 

Sharalyn Orbaugh 84 

7. Rebooting “A Logic Named Joe”: Exploring the Multiple 

Influences of a Strangely Predictive Mid- 1940s Short 

David L. Ferro and Eric G. Swedin 104 



Table of Contents 

8. Victims of a Globalized, Radicalized, Technologized 

World, or. Why the Beatles Needed Help! 

Lynne Lundquist 120 

9. “A Journey Beyond the Stars”: 2001: A Space Odyssey and 

the Psychedelic Revolution in 1960s Science Fiction 

Rob Latham 128 

10. The Endless Odyssey: The 2001 Saga and Its Inability to 

Predict Humanity’s Future 

GaryWestfahl 135 

11. Intercultural and Interface: Rung Fu as Abstract Machine 

Wong Kin Yuen 171 

12. Post-Genre Ginemas and Post-Colonial Attitude: Hong 

Kong Meets Paris 

Veronique Flambard-Weisbart 189 

13. Writing, Weaving, and Technology 

Amy Kit-sze Chan 198 

14. The Technological Contours of Contemporary Science 

Fiction, or. The Science Fiction That Science Fiction 
Doesn’t See 

Brooks Landon 213 

15. Thinking About the Smart Wireless World 

Gregory Benford 220 

Bibliography of Works Related to Science Fiction and the 

Prediction of the Future 229 

Bibliography of Other Works Cited in the Text 241 

About the Contributors 253 

Index 255 


Of Futures Imagined, and 
Futures Inhabited 

Gary Westfahl 

In 1954, anthropologist Kalervo Oberg introduced the term “culture shock” 
to describe the severe discomfort felt by people who move into a culture very 
unlike the one they were raised in. By the 1970s, futurist Alvin Toffler was 
provocatively arguing that a similar sense of unease was now affecting almost 
everyone in the contemporary world — because scientific and social innovations 
arriving at an ever-accelerating rate were changing societies so much that, in 
effect, all citizens were distressingly finding themselves in a culture significantly 
different from the one they were familiar with. To describe this condition, 
Toffler built upon Oberg’s insight to coin the term “future shock” and analyzed 
this novel form of anxiety in a best-selling book with that title (1971). In the 
decades since Toffler’s concept became prominent, his term has not entered 
everyday discourse, but virtually all commentators embrace his central con- 
clusion: that our civilization is today in a state of constant flux, and numerous 
people are struggling because they cannot readily adjust to constantly changing 

Of course, new technologies and customs will be less upsetting if people 
have been informed about their coming appearance and probable effects— 
which means that some people should have been relatively immune from 
difficulties in calmly accepting the various novelties being introduced into their 
lives— namely, readers of science fiction. For supporters of the genre long argued 
that one of science fiction’s primary purposes, and virtues, is that it enables 
people to better prepare for the future with its plausible predictions of things 
to come. This belief can be traced back to pioneering author and editor Hugo 
Gernsback, whose original argument was even stronger: science fiction, he 
claimed, not only predicted the future, but actually created it — by providing 
scientists and inventors with imaginative ideas that they could proceed to trans- 




form into reality. As he explained while introducing a contest in his magazine 
Amazing Stories, 

The author who works out a brand new idea in a scientifiction plot may be hailed 
as an original inventor years later, when his brain-child will have taken wings and 
when cold-blooded scientists will have realized the author’s ambition. 

An author may not know how to build or make his invention of a certain apparatus 
or instrument, but he may know how to predict, and often does predict, the use of 
such a one. The professional inventor or scientist then comes along, gets the stimulus 
from the story and promptly responds with the material invention.* 

As an unstated but obvious side-effect of this process, science fiction readers 
were, by absorbing these stories, getting an advance look at coming scientific 

Still, there were limitations in Gernsback’s expansive argument, since sci- 
ence fiction was seen as only offering isolated predictions of future inventions, 
not broader pictures of how these innovations might affect society or consid- 
erations of possible changes in social conditions outside the realm of scientific 
progress. Gernsback offered little more than hints that science fiction might 
fulfill such wider goals when noting, for example, that science fiction “widen[s] 
the young man’s horizon, as nothing else can” and “keeps [children] abreast of 
the times. It would be left to his most noteworthy successor, writer and editor 
lohn W. Campbell, Jr., to present a fuller explanation of the nature and value 
of science fiction prediction, largely in his magazine Astounding Science Fic- 

To be sure, Campbell happily accepted Gernsback’s notion that science 
fiction might directly lead to new scientific innovations, maintaining in “The 
Science of Science-Fiction” that “Science-fiction has the interesting character- 
istic of causing its own predictions to come true” because future scientists “will 
have read the magazines, seen the stories, and recognized the validity of the 
science-fiction engineering!”’ However, Campbell went beyond Gernsback first 
in explaining that science fiction predictions merited scrutiny because writers 
were not simply using their imaginations, but relying upon the scientific tech- 
nique of extrapolation: “Science-fiction, being largely an attempt to forecast 
the future, on the basis of the present, represents a form of extrapolation. 
Furthermore, in envisioning scientific advances, science fiction writers were 
considering “what the results look like when applied not only to machines, but 
to human societies as well,” making their prophecies more likely to be both 
more accurate and more helpful.’ As a result, whenever major scientific break- 
throughs were in the headlines, Campbell enjoyed pointing out that science 
fiction readers, having read predictions of those developments, could immedi- 
ately accept and understand them, unlike their startled and disoriented con- 
temporaries. After the explosion of the atomic bomb in 1945, he speculated in 
“Atomic Age” that science fiction readers were now being consulted by neighbors 
as experts on the subject, since science fiction stories had long featured such 

Introduction (Westfahl) 


weapons.'’ When another spectacular demonstration of science fiction’s 
prophetic powers emerged — the launch of Sputnik in late 1957, beginning the 
era of space travel — Campbell again gloated that science hction readers had 
already known it was coming : 

I think the people of the United States thought [science fiction writers] were kidding 
[....] That nuclear weapons and space flight were amusing ideas to play with [...] 
Apparently, they thought that science fiction was an escape literature, and read it as 

It happens that science fiction’s core is just about the only non-escape literature 
available to the general public today.^ 

Certainly, one might concede Campbell’s points that, in the cases of atomic 
energy and space travel, science fiction had been prophetic, and that science 
fiction readers for that reason were less surprised, and less concerned, when 
these phenomena came into being than others who had not read science fiction. 
However, since over half a century has passed since those triumphs of science 
fiction prediction, we must now reconsider the overall accuracy and usefulness 
of science fiction predictions as we move further into the twenty-first century. 

Actually, it is easy to argue that science fiction has conspicuously failed to 
anticipate the world we are now living in. Commentators routinely lament the 
absence of predicted innovations as flying cars and rocket jets strapped on peo- 
ple’s backs, though one must note that such naive visions were more common 
in popular culture than the science fiction stories of pulp magazines and paper- 
back novels. More significantly, science fiction, with few exceptions, predicted 
that humanity would advance into space far more rapidly than has been the 
case, while failing to envision the ways that computers would be developed, 
miniaturized, and incorporated into all aspects of contemporary life — leading 
to extravagant projections of a colonized solar system in the future with absurd 
scenes of spaceship pilots frantically manipulating slide rules in order to recal- 
culate their courses. Further, technological advances in fields ranging from bio- 
engineering to nanotechnology that are now transforming our world rarely 
figured in writers’ depictions of Earth’s future, and widely anticipated catas- 
trophes like nuclear war and ruinous overpopulation have never materialized. 
Overall, it seems, we now live in a twenty-first century which is very different 
from the twenty- first centuries of earlier science fiction — which means that 
the genre, despite the expansive promises of its champions, did not really pre- 
pare people for a contemporary civilization of computer networks, terrorism, 
and identity theft. Science fiction readers, in other words, may be just as vul- 
nerable to the agonies of “future shock” as anyone else. 

This volume will endeavor to address a number of questions raised by 
what one might wryly describe as this unforeseen situation. If science fiction 
writers, despite their celebrated expertise and abilities, have persistently faltered 
in their efforts to predict the future, why has that been the case? Are there, in 
fact, overlooked or rarely cited texts that did succeed in providing accurate 



prophecies of today’s world? Have science fiction films— often derided as less 
intellectual cousins of science fiction literature — done a better, or worse, job 
in predicting the future? And what exactly are the sorts of contemporary phe- 
nomena that science fiction did not anticipate, or is still neglecting to consider? 

The first part of the volume, “Cosmic Visions,” offers five broad explo- 
rations of science fiction and prophecy involving a range of disparate texts. My 
“Pitfalls of Prophecy: Why Science Fiction So Often Fails to Predict the Future” 
attempts to systematically explain why common approaches in science-fictional 
prophecy, including extrapolation, have so regularly been unable to produce 
valid visions of the technology and societies of the future. Richard L. McKin- 
ney’s “Emotional Dimensions of Transmimetic Fiction: Emotion, Aesthetics, 
Ethics, and Rhetoric in Tales of Tomorrow’s Science, Technology, and Techno- 
science” maintains that science fiction predictions are especially valuable 
because they consider “the ethical consequences of future developments,” allow- 
ing science fiction to “introduce its readers to new and unique emotions, never 
previously part of the world, but potentially part of the world of tomorrow.” 
Kirk Hampton and Carol MacKay’s “The Internet and the Anagogical Myths 
of Science Fiction,” after acknowledging that today’s Internet was specifically 
predicted only in one story, Murray Leinster’s “A Logic Named Joe,” argues 
that one finds in science fiction “prefiguring aspects of the Internet since the 
invention of the genre,” such as its capacities for networking and storing vast 
amounts of information, though “the forms they take can be hard to recognize.” 
Veronica Hollinger’s “Technobodies and the Anxieties of Performance,” after 
pondering recent texts which illustrate how traditional understandings of 
human identity have become problematized, locates surprising insights in two 
1940s stories by Cordwainer Smith and C. L. Moore. And McKinney’s “Places 
of Alterity in Science Fiction” classifies and analyzes the alternative environ- 
ments depicted in science-fictional images of the future, provocatively arguing 
that “One does not read science fiction to chart the exact path to the future, or 
to find out the details of tomorrow.... SF can explore what sort of place tomor- 
row may be to live in.” 

The second section, “The Practice of Prophecy,” provides ten more focused 
examinations of predictions and science fiction in specific texts or bodies of 
work, arranged roughly in chronological order. Sharalyn Orbaugh’s “Future 
City Tokyo: 1909 and 2009” argues that the ideas of futurists in the early twen- 
tieth century were strangely realized in both the subsequent history of Tokyo 
and works of Japanese popular culture, while David L. Ferro and Eric G. 
Swedin’s “Rebooting A Logic Named Joe’: Exploring the Multiple Influences 
of a Strangely Predictive Mid-1940s Short Story” celebrates the unique vision 
of Leinster’s story, explores its origins and impact upon contemporary readers, 
and considers how it relates to common ideas about science fiction’s powers of 

Next are five chapters involving the predictive features of twentieth-cen- 

Introduction (Westfahl) 


tury films, which are often overlooked in surveys of prophecies that are more 
attentive to literature. Lynne Lundquist’s “Victims of a Globalized, Radicalized, 
Technologized World, or, Why the Beatles Needed Help!" finds a startlingly 
accurate prediction of contemporary life in a film routinely dismissed as a friv- 
olous comedy. Rob Latham’s “‘A Journey Beyond the Stars’: 2001: A Space 
Odyssey and the Psychedelic Revolution in 1960s Science Fiction” provides a 
context for considerations of that landmark film by analyzing how its story was 
initially viewed not as a scientifically-grounded prediction of humanity’s future, 
but rather a visceral rejection of logic and technology more aligned with science 
fiction’s “New Wave” of the 1960s. My “The Endless Odyssey: The 2001 Saga 
and Its Inability to Predict Humanity’s Future” explores how various sequels 
to that landmark film, in books, comic books, and films, have consistently failed 
to fulfill the promise of the film’s conclusion — the birth of a new superhuman 
race — and ponders why no one has been able to craft a satisfactory continuation 
of that story. Wong Kin Yuen’s “Intercultural and Interface : Kung Fu as Abstract 
Machine” provides a thorough analysis of how recent critical insights in the 
field of intercultural studies were anticipated and illustrated in kung fu films 
of the 1970s and later decades. Veronique Flambard-Weisbart’s “Post-Genre 
Cinemas and Post-Colonial Attitude: Hong Kong Meets Paris” stimulatingly 
studies how visions of cinema’s future propounded by the French New Wave 
movement in the 1950s led to Hong Kong’s postmodern Wuxia Plan films, which 
in turn inspired newer French filmmakers; and all these films were “based on 
universal human values that transcend the immediacy of the market” and 
devoted to “humankind ... the only genre, and the only attitude, that never 
grows old.” In a sense, she celebrates those films for their refusal to embrace 
the goal of prophecy. 

The volume concludes with three examinations of conspicuous failures to 
predict or confront contemporary realities. While Amy Kit-sze Chan’s “Writing, 
Weaving and Technology” does locate and discuss a relevant science fiction 
story of the 1990s, she is otherwise discussing recent realizations about rela- 
tionships between women, technology, and writing that have been overlooked 
in literature and film. Brooks Landon’s “The Technological Contours of Con- 
temporary Science Fiction, or. The Science Fiction That Science Fiction Doesn’t 
See” more narrowly puzzles over the fact that science fiction has remained so 
hesitant to explore and embrace new technologies of story-telling, suggesting 
that a sort of conservatism underlies a genre more commonly praised for for- 
ward-looking attitudes. And Gregory Benford’s “Thinking about the Smart 
Wireless World” concludes the volume by providing — paradoxically, by means 
of a brief science fiction story— a vision how traditional notions of privacy 
might be altered by advanced technology in ways that science fiction has rarely 
if ever probed. 

Before readers proceed to these chapters, a few words should be said about 
the unusual origins of this volume. The original intent was to assemble, in 



book form, the papers presented at the Hong Kong 2003 Conference; however, 
for a variety of reasons, a majority of conference presenters, when belatedly 
approached about contributing to the volume, declined to make their works 
available. An additional issue was that the conference’s theme —“Technoscience, 
Material Culture, and Everyday Life” — seemed too broad for a marketable vol- 
ume. After discussions with the editors at McFarland, it was agreed to have the 
volume focus on the issue of science fiction’s predictions; and to fill the void 
left by conference papers we could not include, new contributions were 
solicited. For the record: six chapters in this volume are versions of papers pre- 
sented at the conference; three chapters were written by scholars who had papers 
accepted for presentation at that conference but opted instead to submit dif- 
ferent items, one of them previously published; one chapter was written by an 
attendee who, having contributed his conference paper, volunteered to write 
a second, original chapter; and five chapters come from scholars who did not 
attend the conference. 

One serendipitous result of this volume’s odd history is, I would argue, a 
broader consideration of science fiction and prophecy than previous studies— 
many cited in the bibliography of relevant secondary works that follows the 
chapters— provided. The traditional question has always been: did science fiction 
accurately predict the technology and social structures of our contemporary 
world? Yet chapters here also explore whether science fiction has been able to 
predict the emotions, attitudes, and critical theories that now characterize our 
lives, addressing a different question: even if particular details were incorrect, 
did science fiction get the “feel” of the future right? In addition, while previous 
analyses dealt almost exclusively with American and British science fiction, this 
volume, engendered by a conference attended by scholars from around the 
world, brings the literature and film of other cultures into the discussion. 

Thus, though this volume cannot be accurately described as a collection of 
papers from the Hong Kong 2003 Conference, it would never have come into 
being if that conference had not occurred, and it reflects the lingering influence 
of that conference. For more information about that singular event, one may 
read my online essay “Journey to the Future: Hong Kong 2003,”* which as it 
happens considers the experience of attending that forward-looking conference 
as a prediction of the future in itself. Still, since those who attended the Hong 
Kong 2003 Conference could never have foreseen that a volume like this would 
represent its end result, the conference also demonstrates, as innumerable science 
fiction writers have found, that it can be vexingly difficult to predict the future. 


1. Hugo Gernsback, “$300.00 Prize Contest — Wanted: A Symbol for Scientifiction,” 
Amazing Stories, 3 (April, 1928), 5. The piece is unsigned but almost certainly written 
by Gernsback. 

2. Gernsback, “Science Wonder Stories,” Science Wonder Stories, 1 (June, 1929), 5. 

Introduction (Westfahl) 


3. John W. Campbell, Jr., “The Science of Science-Fiction,” Space Magazine, 1 (Winter, 
1949), 5-6. Essay originally published in Atlantic Monthly (May, 1948). 

4. Campbell, “The Perfect Machine,” Astounding Science-Fiction, 25 (May, 1940), 5. 

5. Campbell, “Introduction,” Venus Equilateral, by George O. Smith (New York: Prime 
Press, 1947), 8. 

6. Campbell, “Atomic Age,” Astounding Science-Fiction, 36 (November, 1945), 5-6, 

7. Campbell, “Non-Escape Literature,” Collected Editorials from Analog, by Campbell, 
selected by Harry Harrison (Garden Gity, NY: Doubleday and Gompany, 1966), 227- 
228. Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, 61 (February, 1959). 

8. Gary Westfahl, “Journey to the Future: Hong Kong 2003,” Locus Online website, 
posted April 10, 2003, at http://locusmag.eom/2003/Gommentary/Westfahl04_Hong 

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Part I : Cosmic Visions 


Pitfalls of Prophecy 

Why Science Fiction So Often 
Fails to Predict the Future 

Gary Westfahl 

As someone regarded at times as an expert on science fiction, I was once 
asked to give a presentation offering some predictions about the future; science 
fiction writers routinely face the same request. The problem, as many have 
noted, is that nothing about reading or writing science fiction naturally provides 
any special ability to foresee the future, and science fiction writers repeatedly 
explain that they never really attempt to predict the future, but rather are only 
exploring possible futures to provide entertainment or food for thought. Per- 
haps Harlan Ellison put it best in a 1982 article, “Cheap Thrills on the Road to 

In the mistaken belief that just because I occasionally write fantasy stories extrapo- 
lating some bizarre future America I am privy to Delphic insights, the editors of the 
[Los Angeles] Times have asked me to unleash some wry conceits about what we can 
expect. Little do they understand that writers are merely paid liars and we know no 
more than the rest of you.' 

Isaac Asimov similarly refers to the “general myth among laymen that, 
somehow, the chief function of a science fiction writer is to make predictions 
that eventually come true.”^ And while there are occasions when science fiction 
seemed to have gotten the future right — Jules Verne’s submarine, the Apollo 
moon landings, William Gibson’s cyberspace, etc. — that can be attributed solely 
to the law of averages: after all, if a body of literature makes thousands of pre- 
dictions, at least a few of them are bound to become true. The same principle 
keeps a lot of psychics in business. 

Still, 1 would argue that science fiction may actually be helpful in predicting 
the future, albeit in a convoluted way, if a certain procedure is followed. First, 
one can examine the past predictions of science fiction regarding our own era 
and detect the underlying logical fallacies that made most of them wildly inac- 



Part I: Cosmic Visions 

curate. Then, having identified the erroneous patterns of thought that led writ- 
ers astray, one can consider some current science fiction predictions about our 
future, identify them as additional illustrations of these proven fallacies, and 
conclude that they are almost certainly wrong. Finally, one might logically 
assume that predictions radically different from the rejected predictions are 
probably correct. 

To test this procedure, I surveyed a number of errant predictions from 
past science fiction and deduced that they were based on one or more of seven 
dubious assumptions, which I will list and discuss as the Fallacies of Predic- 

* * 

1. The Fallacy of Universal Wealth. This is the assumption that all governments 
and individuals in the future will be wealthy, enabling them to easily afford any 
technological advances that they desire. A similar premise with identical con- 
sequences— the Fallacy of Infinite Price Reduction — is that all technological 
advances will steadily become cheaper and cheaper until, finally, virtually every- 
one can afford them. 

For example: Consider one standard vision of the future metropolis— 
towering skyscrapers joined by soaring walkways; pedestrians traveling on mov- 
ing sidewalks; a huge dome over the central city to maintain perfect climate 
control. As it happens, we could readily build such a city today, using only 
existing technology. But what municipal government could possibly ajford to 
install moving sidewalks or build a dome over its downtown area? Imagine 
campaigning to be mayor of New York City on a platform of imposing a 50 
percent local sales tax to finance the installation of moving sidewalks throughout 
the city. 

But will advances in technology eventually make such innovations so cheap 
that any city could afford them? Probably not: it is true that, once introduced, 
new devices tend to steadily become cheaper, but the process does not continue 
indefinitely. The prices of color television sets went down dramatically from 
the 1950s to the 1970s, but for a long time, a color television of decent dimen- 
sions continued to cost about $200, while VCR’s bottomed out at around $150. 
In short, something that is very expensive today will indeed be cheaper tomor- 
row, but we cannot predict that it will become so amazingly cheap that almost 
everybody can afford it. 

2. The Fallacy of Replacement. This is the assumption that, once we develop 
an advanced scientific method to do something, we will immediately abandon 
all the old methods. 

Early science fiction is full of such predictions. In Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 
124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (1925), Ralph at one point uses his Meno- 
graph to automatically record his thoughts on paper — an invention “which 

1. Pitfalls of Prophecy (Westfahl) 


entirely superseded the pen and pencil.”^ Yet earlier in the novel, Ralph had 
employed another amazing device to give an admirer a long-distance autograph, 
and a later invention that records voices is justihed as a way to avoid problems 
with forged signatures. Obviously, people in Ralph’s future still found it appro- 
priate at times to use the pen and pencil. Or consider David H. Keller’s classic 
story “The Revolt of the Pedestrians” (1928), which envisioned that advances 
in mobile transportation would lead people to never walk at all, creating a dom- 
inant class of people unable to walk around on their legs.'* 

Generally speaking, however, when humanity finds a seemingly better way 
to do something, the new way does become popular, but the old way is never 
abandoned; it is simply used less often, or only in certain situations. 

Consider writing: every system for recording words ever devised by the 
human race is still being employed today. Stone tablets? Still used for solemn 
public pronouncements, such as tombstones and monuments. Pen and paper? 
Still the most convenient, portable, and flexible way to record data, and an 
ideal medium to convey personal conviction; thus, in the 1980s, when Ronald 
Reagan wanted to persuade a skeptical Soviet president that he was sincerely 
interested in arms control, he sent him a handwritten letter with that message. 
Typewriters? Still useful for odd chores, like filling out forms that would oth- 
erwise demand complicated preparation for printing from a computer, and still 
preferred by writers like Ray Bradbury and Ellison. People can now add to their 
computers devices that record their voices and provide transcriptions; however, 
even if they can afford such devices, most people still prefer keyboards. 

Or consider transportation; every system for traveling from one place to 
another ever used by people is still used today. Though a wheelchair or Segway 
could provide people with smooth, wheeled transportation, most people would 
still rather walk, Keller’s dire prediction notwithstanding. Horses are still ridden 
for recreation and in some cities are used by police officers as an efficient way 
to get around. Boats, carriages, rickshaws, bicycles, cars, gliders, balloons, diri- 
gibles ... all are regularly employed today, at least to a limited extent. 

Will the human body shrivel away as people become dependent on tech- 
nology to perform all their chores? Hardly; the growth of new technological 
alternatives to traditional activities has also witnessed the most explosive growth 
in physical exercise ever observed. Yes, some people are becoming coach pota- 
toes, but many others are not eschewing physical activities; in fact, a vast sub- 
culture of individuals are now pumping iron and running down our streets 
every day, trying to make their bodies stronger and more attractive, enjoying 
their bodies more than ever. 

If anything distinguished the twentieth century, it was the persistence and 
re-emergence of old habits alongside the introduction of new habits. Who could 
have imagined that two growth industries in the late twentieth century would 
have been astrology and tattooing, the once-vanishing predecessors to astron- 
omy and colorful items of clothing. 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

In short, if future science does produce a better mousetrap, or new pastime, 
it will surely become popular — but some people, in some situations, will keep 
using the old mousetraps and stick with old pastimes as well. 

3. The Fallacy of Inevitable Technology. This is the assumption that if there 
emerges a new, technological way to do something, it will inevitably be adopted. 
Thus, while the Fallacy of Replacement falsely posits that the new, improved 
product will entirely replace older alternatives, the Fallacy of Inevitable Tech- 
nology assumes more modestly that the new, improved product will at least be 
put to use to some extent. But even this cautious assumption is not always 

Consider the electric toothbrush, first marketed in the 1960s. Every right- 
thinking family of the time purchased one, including mine. But, after using it 
for a few months, my family, like almost every other family, drifted back to 
standard toothbrushes. Recently, electric toothbrushes have again been aggres- 
sively marketed, with modest success, but the vast majority of people still choose 
to avoid them. Let’s face it; to quickly and effectively scour food particles off 
your teeth, nothing beats a small stick with a brush on it. 

More broadly, popular depictions of the future once assumed that atomic 
energy, as the energy source of the future, would become ubiquitous in society: 
“Dad, can I use the atomic car tonight?” “Sure, son, but make sure to fill up 
the isotopes.” Yet, as the inherent dangers of radioactivity were better under- 
stood, it became clear that this sort of energy would never be widely used in 
everyday life, and even advocates of nuclear energy would probably concede 
that, when other energy sources are eventually developed, it would best to avoid 
nuclear energy altogether. Another example would be those ubiquitous rocket 
engines placed on people’s backs to let them fly through the sky, celebrated in 
nostalgic books like Mac Montadon’s Jetback Dreams and Daniel FI. Wilson and 
Richard Horne’s Where’s My Jetpack? As a concept, it works, it seems enjoyable, 
and there have even been some test models constructed; however, I cannot 
warm to the idea of strapping a machine on my back which, if its energies are 
only slightly misdirected, will incinerate my legs. Given the inherent safety 
problems, it is likely that rocket engines will always be found only in rockets, 
not on people’s backs. So, just because we may he able to construct and use a 
product in the future, it does not necessarily mean that we will construct that 
product or will use it to any significant extent. 

4. The Fallacy of Extrapolation. This is the assumption that an identified trend 
will always continue in the same manner, indefinitely into the future. 

Thus, George Orwell in the 1940s observed steady growth in totalitarian 
governments and predicted the trend would continue until it engulfed the entire 
world by the year Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).^ Ellison’s ‘“Repent, Harlequin!’ 
Said the Ticktockman” (1965) grimly predicted that society’s increasing concern 
for punctuality would have oppressive results: 

1. Pitfalls of Prophecy (Westfahl) 


and one day we no longer let time serve us, we serve time and we are slaves of the 
schedule, worshippers of the sun’s passing, bound into a life predicated on restrictions 
because the system will not function if we don’t keep the schedule tight. 

Until it becomes more than a minor inconvenience to be late. It becomes a sin. 
And then a crime.*’ 

Thus, his future world is under the thumb of a dictatorial “Ticktockman” who 
shortens the lives of all those who dare to be late. And Robert A. Heinlein in 
“Where To?” (1952) was one of many commentators who, noticing that the extent 
of clothing that society requires people to wear had steadily declined during the 
last century, confidently predicted the future acceptance of complete public nudity.^ 

The trouble is, trends do not always continue — in fact, they rarely do. 
Indeed, some trends may even be reversed; thus, instead of witnessing a steady 
growth in governmental powers, the last decades have actually witnessed a ten- 
dency to grant more power to individuals and an increase in the numbers of 
democratic governments. Some trends level out: while the move to industrial 
civilization did produce an abrupt increase in our awareness of time, there have 
been no discernible further increases in our attentiveness toward time, and I 
see no evidence that people today are more obsessed with punctuality than they 
were three decades ago. In fact, in places like the Silicon Valley, businesses are 
probably less concerned about employees being at work on time than their 
predecessors. And some trends do not take the form of straight lines: true, 
graph the amount of required clothing in the 1930s, and amount of required 
clothing in the 1950s, connect the lines, and you could have predicted that the 
amount of required clothing in the 1970s would be zero. However, the curve 
defining the amount of clothing that society requires people to wear appears 
to be not a line, but a hyperbola, the curve that keeps getting closer and closer 
to zero without ever touching the horizontal axis; so, bathing suits get skimpier 
and skimpier, but show no signs of vanishing altogether. Yes, just as a calculator 
calculating 1/X for increasing values of X eventually gives up and yields an 
answer of zero, complete nudity may eventually become acceptable, but whether 
that will take years, decades, or centuries to occur seems impossible to say. 

5. The Fallacy of Analogy. This is the assumption that a new technology will 
be adopted and employed in the same manner as a related form of previous 

As one example, Gernsback built upon the idea of solar power to envision, 
in Ralph 124C 41+, massive solar power plants, acres and acres of panels moving 
around to face the sun and generate electricity to pipe into people’s homes. But 
a more entertaining version of this fallacy occurs in those delightful portrayals, 
in The Jetsons cartoons and elsewhere, of future air travel, closely modeled on 
automobile travel: everybody has a plane on their roofs, and they fly to work 
by merging into a highway in the sky, demarcated by traffic signs and lights 
and patrolled by traffic cops on flying motorcycles who pull flyers over for going 
too fast or missing a floating stop sign. 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

However, new technologies usually must be implemented in new ways. 
Solar power makes more sense if deployed as needed in small units for indi- 
vidual homes and businesses; huge solar power plants, except perhaps as Earth- 
orbiting satellites beaming energy down to the surface, do not make much 
sense. Air travel is not, and cannot be, like automobile travel. Of course, one 
reason all American citizens do not fly their own airplanes today relates to the 
aforementioned Fallacy of Universal Wealth — airplanes remain more expensive 
than cars— but other factors explain why they have not replaced cars in our 
society. Flying an airplane is really complicated, as anyone who looks at a modern 
cockpit can readily discern. It is a skill that demands a tremendous amount of 
time and ability to master, a skill that many probably can never master. We 
have enough trouble as it is with sixteen-year-olds trying to learn the relatively 
simple art of driving a car; imagine the carnage that would ensue if they were 
all flying airplanes. And it is simply impractical — not to mention aesthetically 
disastrous— to regulate airplanes by setting up floating traffic markers in the 
sky; yes, planes nearing airports do travel in definite paths, but these are defined 
by radar alone and can be followed only by pilots who attentively watch an 
array of instruments. 

6. The Fallacy of Universal Stupidity. This is the assumption that people in 
the future will be capable of making stupid mistakes, and getting into incredible 
messes, that could have been avoided with even the tiniest bit of forethought. 

Science fiction writer David Brin has waxed eloquent about this problem 
in his essay “Our Favorite Cliche: A World Filled with Idiots ... or Why Fiction 
Routinely Depicts Society and Its Citizens as Fools.”® Examples are not hard to 
come up with. For decades, science fiction stories routinely assumed that 
humanity would launch a worldwide nuclear war, producing a devastated 
planet; other nightmare scenarios included future worlds that, without taking 
meaningful action, allow the world’s population to expand to the point where 
there is standing room only, let the atmosphere become impossible to breathe, 
or watch idly as rampant environmental destruction transforms the planet into 
a hellhole. Some stories are even laughable in depicting future stupidity: a noto- 
rious example is Frederik Pohl’s “The Midas Plague” (1954), memorably evis- 
cerated in Damon Knight’s In Search of Wonder, which describes a future world 
where advanced technology has inexorably led to massive overproduction of 
goods, forcing citizens to devote most of their waking hours to unhappily con- 
suming all of these unnecessary goods. Now, one need not belong to MENSA 
to think up six sensible solutions to this problem in about a minute, but the 
denizens of Pohl’s future world carry on stuffing themselves with unwanted 
food and constantly wearing out new clothes until somebody suddenly realizes 
that they could get their robots to do all the consumption. Well, duh, as 
teenagers today would say... 

Of course, one can say that the jury is still out on this issue: perhaps 

1. Pitfalls of Prophecy (Westfahl) 


humanity will engage in a worldwide nuclear war, perhaps future humans will 
allow population growth and environmental destruction to proceed to the point 
where the planet becomes unlivable, and so on. However, we should note that, 
for more than sixty years, governments of this world have wisely refrained from 
engaging in nuclear war, and other potential dangers to life on Earth are being 
intensely studied, regularly discussed, and at least to an extent acted upon. It 
does not require extraordinary optimism to imagine that our descendants, 
observing that their lives are threatened, will take meaningful, appropriate steps 
to prevent their own deaths. 

7. The Fallacy of Drama. This is the assumption that major changes will occur 
in a quick and noticeable fashion, due to one major event or the actions of a 
single individual. 

There are, of course, embedded in the human psyche certain preferred 
patterns of narrative that shape both our fictions and our predictions, and these 
privilege a single, dramatic crisis or an heroic protagonist. Few things are more 
exciting or involving than a massive disaster, which is surely why so many pre- 
dictions of self-proclaimed seers involve global catastrophes. If you choose to 
believe the dubious documentaries presenting these people’s prognostications, 
the future will invariably be extremely unpleasant, as there will be devastating 
volcanic eruptions; huge earthquakes; oceans flooding the land; ruinous 
nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare; giant asteroids bombarding the Earth; 
plagues and pestilences ... the list goes on and on. And why not think along 
these lines? Let’s face it; if someone claiming the power to predict the future 
announced that, “As far as I can see, life is going to keep on going pretty much 
the same way,” she is unlikely to attract much attention. 

Less catastrophic changes in future societies, in science fiction, are typically 
ascribed to the actions of one person. In John Taine’s The Time Stream (1930), 
for example, a future world assigns pairs of people to get married based on log- 
ical analyses of genetic patterns. Then, one bold woman announces that she 
wishes to marry for love and launches a social movement to sanction marriage 
based on love — a movement which proves effective, though ultimately disas- 
trous for her society. 

However, catastrophes, and the actions of a few good men or women, are 
rarely the mechanisms that change human civilization. Major disasters, affecting 
vast areas and causing millions of deaths, are extremely rare in human history; 
as for the actions of single individuals, one can point to a few people who have 
indeed changed the course of history, but many social changes occur almost 
invisibly and without identifiable agents. In the 1950s, living together without 
being married was strongly disapproved of in American society; by the 1970s, 
however, it was generally accepted. This sea change in attitudes did not occur 
because one brave woman, as in Taine’s novel, stood before a massive crowd, 
loudly demanded her right to live with a man without marrying him, and led 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

a popular campaign to allow couples to do this; rather, amidst numerous social 
upheavals and demands for new attitudes, the American public, employing 
their own collective wisdom, gradually reached a consensus that living together 
without marriage was no longer a big deal. 

Now, having identified these common fallacies, we can proceed to the next 
stage of examining some current science fiction predictions about humanity’s 
future and debunk them on the basis of the detectable fallacies that have engen- 
dered them. 

1. The Conquest of Space. Perhaps in no other area have prognosticators been 
so disappointed, yet so determined to cling to their predictions. By now, accord- 
ing to the consensus future of the science fiction of yesterday, we were supposed 
to have several space stations, bases on the Moon and Mars, explorers on other 
planets, and a society that incorporated space travel as a readily available oppor- 
tunity for job-seekers, adventurers, and vacationers. Even today, when human 
progress into the cosmos has visibly slowed to a crawl, enthusiasts continue to 
promote plans for new, cheap, and efficient spacecraft that, they say, will make 
these dreams practical at last and inspire a new era of space exploration and 

What are the problems? First, as already alluded to, that cousin to the Fal- 
lacy of Universal Wealth, the Fallacy of Infinite Price Reduction, is definitely 
involved: space travel has never gotten particularly cheap, and proposed new 
initiatives appear unlikely to make it much cheaper. More broadly, there have 
been issues with the Fallacy of Analogy. Space travel was supposed to be just 
like air travel; and, since air travel progressed from the Wright Brothers to reg- 
ular commercial flights in about forty years, writers anticipated similar progress 
from Yuri Gagarin in 1961 to Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). 
The trouble is, space travel is much more difficult, and much more dangerous, 
than air travel, and there were no defensible grounds for expecting Southwest 
Airlines to be flying to the Moon by now. 

Further, much space fiction was premised on another questionable analogy 
between outer space and America: just as repressed Europeans traveled to Amer- 
ica, started new lives, and achieved independence from Europe, future space 
travelers, it was believed, would settle on the Moon or Mars or in space habitats, 
build new lives, and fight to become independent from Earth. But space is 
infinitely more inhospitable than America ever was. Imagine being a real estate 
agent trying to sell someone a piece of property on the Moon: here is a place 
to live that has no air, no water, no sources of food, and extreme temperature 
conditions, a place to live where you instantly die if you happen to walk outside 
without elaborate protective clothing. Are you ready to move in? As 1 note else- 
where, if someone wants to make an analogy between space and some area of 

1. Pitfalls of Prophecy (Westfahl) 


Earth, the best choice would be not America but Antarctica, a frozen wasteland 
that remains to this day inhabited only by small groups of scientists; and there 
have been no clamorings from the oppressed people of Earth for the right to 
emigrate to the South Pole and launch a new civilization. 

2. Human Cloning. As the argument goes, if we have cloned sheep, human 
beings— which as organisms really are not any more complicated than sheep — 
cannot be far behind. And science fiction stories and popular science articles 
have envisioned many applications of this new technology: megalomaniac cor- 
porate barons could clone themselves so that, as they grew old, they could pass 
their empires on to younger versions of themselves, or perhaps even transplant 
their old brains into new bodies; a person could clone her body with the brain 
removed and keep it alive as a convenient and ideal source for replacement 
organs; superior and desirable individuals could be duplicated to benefit soci- 
ety— every baseball team could have its own Alex Rodriguez, every concert 
hall could have its own Placido Domingo; in fact, if we simply duplicated all 
the people we liked instead of making babies the old-fashioned way, we might 
threaten the biological diversity of our species and create a civilization con- 
sisting of nothing but a small number of ideal citizens infinitely duplicated. 

Well, none of these things have happened so far, despite occasional, dubi- 
ous claims to the contrary, and I cannot really see any of them happening in 
the foreseeable future. In the hrst place, cloning complex creatures appears to 
be inherently more problematic than cloning simple creatures; thus, if even 
cloning same fairly basic organisms is routine, assuming that one could similarly 
create completely healthy duplicates of humans from material in their cells rep- 
resents an instance of the Fallacy of Analogy. Next, there is the Fallacy of 
Inevitable Technology — just because we can do something does not mean that 
we necessarily will do something, and with firm bans on human cloning already 
in place or about to be implemented in most technological societies, it seems 
clear that moral and ethical concerns about cloning human beings will at least 
delay, and possibly forever ban, any of the scenarios above. Consider also the 
Fallacy of Universal Wealth; keeping spare people alive requires a lot of money. 
Maintaining a comatose person in a hospital bed can costs hundreds of dollars 
a day; imagine the expense of keeping your replacement body alive for forty 
years until you need a new cornea or kidney. Cloning will surely remain a pas- 
time of the rich if it is allowed at all. As for concerns that people will eliminate 
all human diversity and doom the race to extinction for the questionable pleas- 
ure of endless duplicates of Elvis or Madonna, we run right into the Fallacy of 
Universal Stupidity. 

3. Asteroid Impacts. These are currently the most popular environmental dis- 
aster being envisioned in alarmist documentaries and the like. These stem from 
the Fallacy of Drama. Personally, I lost interest when one noted expert, while 
being interviewed for one of those documentaries, confessed that the odds of 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

a massive asteroid actually striking the Earth in the near future were something 
like one hundred million to one. Now, I can sleep nights. 

Some commentators have focused on other potential astronomical disasters 
that seem even more unlikely: a wandering black hole could enter our Solar 
System and start devouring planets, or a massive hypernova could explode in 
our galaxy and bathe our planet in radiation intense enough to destroy all 
organic life. And there is the old standby, a race of malevolent aliens who decide 
that they must conquer the Earth. Now, no one can say that such events are 
impossible; but any reasonable consideration of the odds involved would inex- 
orably lead to the conclusion that they are extraordinarily improbable. 

4. A World Controlled by Multinational Corporations. This has been a recent 
concern in the wake of innumerable mergers that are seemingly creating larger 
and larger corporations; it is further supposed that these huge entities, powerful 
enough to resist any regulation by governments, will keep growing and growing, 
start doing whatever they like to do, and eventually become the true masters 
of the world. 

Here is a classic example of the Fallacy of Extrapolation. In the first place, 
individual companies that rise dramatically can also fall dramatically; watching 
the 1982 Blade Runner today, for example, we are struck by visions of a future 
world dominated by, among others, the Atari Company. Well, in 1982, it may 
have looked like Atari had a stranglehold on the video game industry, but soon 
enough, Nintendo came along, and Atari shriveled away. As for this general 
trend toward huge multinational corporations, there is no reason to believe this 
will continue indefinitely until the entire world is in the hands of a few com- 
panies. In fact, one clearly discernible trend in recent years has been the emer- 
gence and growing prominence of innumerable small companies, each finding 
their own niche and thriving despite competition from larger competitors. 

5. The Depletion of All Natural Resources. This is the notion that future 
humans will use up every ounce of fossil fuels, cut down the last tree in the last 
rain forest, extract all useful minerals from the ground, and leave the world 
drained of resources and helpless to carry on as an advanced civilization. 

Such nightmare scenarios might be attributed to the Fallacy of Drama or 
the Fallacy of Extrapolation, but they are mostly indicative of the Fallacy of 
Universal Stupidity. In observing an apparent complacency towards these poten- 
tial problems today, commentators may mistake a commonsensical focus on 
the present with willful blindness to danger. Told that certain resources may 
run out in seventy years, most people are not going to be moved to action; in 
seventy years, they will probably be dead, and their children may be dead as 
well. People have other things to worry about. However, told that certain 
resources may run out in two years, people will move vigorously to preserve 
what is left and develop substitutes for, or alternatives to the use of, those 
endangered resources. In the 1930s, when problems in Europe and Asia seemed 

1. Pitfalls of Prophecy (Westfahl) 


remote, Americans focused on their own concerns, seemingly complacent about 
impending danger; but in the 1940s, when those problems were clearly threat- 
ening, Americans responded with remarkable energy to confront and overcome 
their foreign enemies. People are not stupid; people are not going to ignore the 
coming loss of needed materials and resources when the problem is truly immi- 
nent; people will, most likely, display astounding ingenuity and effort in the 
face of such problems. 

6. The Decline of Marriage. Noting increases in divorce rates and the numbers 
of people living together without getting married, science fiction regularly posits 
that the institution of marriage will become less significant in the future, and 
may even fade away altogether. One common prediction is that marriage will 
be redefined as a contract with a fixed time: couples would get married for, say, 
a period of five years, and at the end of that time they could either renew their 
contracts for another five years or terminate the relationship by not renewing 
their contracts. 

This again illustrates the Fallacy of Extrapolation, employing the same 
logic that said that we would all be walking around naked in public by now. In 
fact, divorce rates have recently more or less stabilized, and the most significant 
social movement in the early twenty-first century has been the campaign of 
gays and lesbians to earn the same right to get married as heterosexual couples 
now enjoy. If anything, then, the institution of marriage may be becoming even 
more prominent and important than it was in the past. 

7. The Tuned-In, Virtual Citizenry- As they come to enjoy the pleasures and 
safety of a virtual world, this scenario goes, people will spend all their time in 
computer-generated simulations, becoming addicted to various artificial expe- 
riences and pleasures. In one extreme scenario, James Gunn’s The Joy Makers 
(1960) envisions that people in the future will universally allow themselves to 
be divorced from real life in order to be immersed in amniotic cells and endlessly 
sustained by hedonistic dreams. 

These predictions stem from the Fallacy of Replacement, the belief that 
new sources of enjoyment will inevitably replace old sources of enjoyment. 
Movies, television, and video games have not eliminated hiking, bicycling, or 
soccer games, and virtual reality is not going to either. If you want to spend 
your life perpetually stimulating your pleasure centers without doing anything 
else, alcohol or marijuana will do that pretty well, but most people still prefer 
to mostly do other things. Undoubtedly a few people, like William Gibson’s 
Count Zero (1986), may choose to hook their bodies up to a computer and 
stay in cyberspace forever, but the vast majority of people will be happy to sign 
on only occasionally and spend the rest of their time engaged in other activi- 


X- X- 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

Thus, since my experimental procedure indicates that these common sci- 
ence fiction predictions are unlikely, we have some idea of what the future will 
probably not be like; but there remains the challenge of employing these con- 
clusions to develop a contrasting picture of what the future will be like. 

I should note that the business of predicting the future by negating other 
dubious predictions is not my invention; rather, I learned it from Jack Smith, 
late columnist for The Los Angeles Times. Every year, he would browse through 
tabloid magazines and consider their typically outrageous predictions for the 
coming year: Princess Diana would enter a nunnery; Frank Sinatra would run 
for President; the entire population of Rio de Janiero would see a gigantic image 
of Jesus Christ in the sky. And Smith then offered his “counter-predictions”: I 
counter-predict, he said, that Princess Diana wilJ not enter a nunnery, that 
Frank Sinatra will not run for President, that the entire population of Rio de 
Janiero wilJ not see a gigantic image of Jesus, and so on. And year after year, 
his predictions were aJways accurate. 

Indeed, refusing to believe in extravagant and extraordinarily new devel- 
opments in the future is remarkably logical. For, no matter how much we may 
desire, or fear, a radically altered future, we observe throughout history remark- 
able continuities in human activities and behavior. 

Consider, for a moment, everything that you did yesterday, and how your 
day would compare to a similar day 100 years ago. Some of your actions, of 
course, would be entirely unfamiliar to your ancestors: you used a computer to 
check your e-mail, you sent a fax, you called a business associate or checked 
your portfolio on a cell phone, you watched television, and/or you played a video 
game. However, most of your activities today would be entirely familiar to some- 
one from the distant past: you woke up in a bed that, aside from some space-age 
materials in it, was similar in design to beds of one hundred years ago; you ate 
a breakfast, lunch, and dinner featuring foods similar to those eaten one hundred 
years, consumed while you sat at a table and employed utensils like those 
employed by people one hundred years ago; you spent most of the day meeting, 
talking, and working with people, just like people one hundred years ago; and 
if it was Friday or Saturday, you spent your evening at a party, movie, or concert, 
socializing with friends, just like people one hundred years ago. 

So, while human life in the future will undoubtedly change in many small 
and large ways, it is reasonable to predict that, by and large, people will continue 
to act in the ways that they have acted in the past. In the manner of Smith, 
then, I can briskly counter-predict that, in the future, humanity will not rapidly 
spread throughout the Solar System, will not be inundated with human clones, 
will not be destroyed by an asteroid, will not be entirely controlled by multi- 
national corporations, will not exhaust all of Earth’s natural resources, will not 
abandon the institution of marriage, and will not completely retreat from reality 
to live in virtual worlds. 

If you would like some more adventurous predictions, I can make use of 

1. Pitfalls of Prophecy (Westfahl) 


the fact that sometimes, people have not only failed to embrace new technologies 
and new habits, but have actively returned to old technologies and old habits 
(recall the examples of astrology and tattoos). So, let me make a few guesses 
along these lines. The future will witness a resurgence in the art of handwriting, 
as people with access to computers that can instantly print innumerable pages 
in any font will rediscover the special magic of taking the time to push a pen 
across the page to express one’s thoughts. To ensure that real handwriting is 
not mistaken for computer simulations, people may go back to using fountain 
pens, or their more convenient equivalent, the cartridge pen, to provide the 
smears and drops of ink that unmistakably convey personal effort. Mathematics 
instruction in western countries will return to the slide rule; the results provided 
may not be as accurate as those from a calculator, but learning how to use a 
slide rule necessarily includes learning how to think mathematically, and a slide 
rule never yields the sorts of huge errors that can easily result from hitting the 
wrong button on increasingly tiny calculators. Finally, noticing the popularity 
of tattooing and body-piercing, one can predict that other forms of body alter- 
ation and mutilation, now observed only in documentaries about peoples in 
remote areas of the world, will move into contemporary society. Are you ready 
for lips stretched out to form large disks the size of CDs? Earlobes extending 
down to the neck? Anything that human beings once chose to do to their own 
bodies will, someday, be done again. 

In arguing that our human future will largely be the same as today, or will 
even involve scattered returns to past traditions, I may confront the accusation 
that I am hopelessly conservative, an old fuddy-duddy hopelessly attached to 
the past and afraid of the future. However, as someone who can surf the Internet 
and help Mario beat Bowser with the best of them, I cannot be entirely char- 
acterized as someone doggedly behind the times. Not a blind reactionary, I am 
rather someone who recognizes, after spending much of his life reading about 
the past, present, and future of humanity, that the history of human life on 
Earth cannot be accurately described as a steady progress from an imagined 
primitivism to imagined state of civilization; rather, it is best characterized as 
a steady expansion in the number of choices available to humans. Today, you 
can live in the past, in the present, or in the future; that is, you can choose to 
do only what your ancestors did, what everybody else is doing today, or what 
only a few pioneers are doing now but what many others will be doing tomor- 
row. Our descendants in the future will have even more choices than we do 
today, but many of them, much of the time, will undoubtedly choose to do 
exactly what we are doing now, like many of us, much of the time, choose to 
do what our ancestors were doing. Human life in the future, then, will be more 
variegated, but not necessarily very different, than our own lives. And if that 
does not sound quite as exciting as the hopeful scenarios of futurists or 
dystopian nightmares of science fiction, it is the best prediction of the future I 
can offer at the moment. 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 


1. Harlan Ellison, “Cheap Thrills on the Road to Hell,” Sleepless Nights in the Pro- 
crustean Bed: Essays by Harlan Ellison, by Ellison, ed. Marty Clark (San Bernardino, CA: 
Borgo Press, 1984), 159. Originally published in The Los Angeles Times (January 1, 1982). 

2. Isaac Asimov, “Prediction,” Gold: The Final Science Fiction Collection, by Asimov 
(1995; New York: Harper Prism, 1996), 205. Originally published in Isaac Asimov’s Science 
Fiction Magazine (July, 1989). 

3. Hugo Gernsback, Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (New York: The 
Stratford Company, 1925), 46. 

4. David H. Keller, “The Revolt of the Pedestrians,” Amazing Stories: 60 Years of the 
Best Science Fiction, ed. Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (New York: TSR, 1985), 9- 
28. Originally published in Amazing Stories (February, 1928). 

5. George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949; New York: New American Library, 

6. Ellison, “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” Alone Against Tomorrow: 
Stories of Alienation in Speculative Fiction, by Ellison (1971; New York: Collier Books, 
1972), 137. Originally published in Galaxy (December, 1965). 

7. Robert A. Heinlein, “Where To?,” Expanded Universe: The New Worlds of Robert 
A. Heinlein, by Heinlein (New York: Ace Books, 1980), 316-353. An earlier version was 
published in Galaxy (February, 1952). 

8. David Brin, “Our Favorite Cliche: A World Filled With Idiots ... or Why Fiction 
Routinely Depicts Society and Its Citizens as Fools,” Extrapolation, 41 (Spring, 2000), 


Emotional Dimensions of 
Transmimetic Fiction 

Emotion, Aesthetics, Ethics, and 
Rhetoric in Tales of Tomorrow’s Science, 
Technology, and Technoscience 

Richard L. McKinney 

This chapter’s subtitle contains the words emotion, aesthetics, ethics, and 
rhetoric — words representing concepts that are not always welcome or cordially 
embraced, especially when taken together, in academic contexts such as, for 
instance, economic rationality or scientific fact-finding. When one adds the 
term transmimetic fiction (used as a synonym for science fiction, also known as 
SF), the number of voices skeptical to the appropriateness or value of 
approaches built around these things will increase in some segments of acade- 
mia. Science fiction, despite a growing respectability, is still not seen as com- 
pletely “house-broken” in more staid and traditional academic halls. 
Nonetheless, these four dimensions— the emotional, aesthetic, ethical, and 
rhetorical — make the better works of that generally future-facing, change-ori- 
ented genre one of the best approaches for discussing and exploring the possi- 
bilities for good and evil alike in potential tomorrows. 

For purposes of discussion, I will often deliberately choose SF texts that 
produce relatively immediate, dramatic, and strong affects in their readers. 
Some fiction, however, evokes more subtle and long-term feelings and emo- 
tions, having thereby, perhaps, even greater effects on its audience. My points 
apply not only to novels that make us cry openly, stories that cause us to pause 
and glance apprehensively over our shoulders, or tales that compel us to shout 
for joy. Equally important are novels that force us to return repeatedly, long 
after books have been put aside, to thoughts of what it would be like to live in 
the worlds depicted therein; stories highlighting discrepancies between what 



Part I: Cosmic Visions 

they have portrayed and personal memories of the same or similar events; or 
tales that unexpectedly arouse emotions we didn’t realize we were capable of. 

Since the beginnings of human existence, we have learned about the world 
by observing it; our perceptions provide the primary foundations upon which 
we build an understanding of what the world is and how it works. Over time, 
we have refined, developed, and extended (using artificial means, when appro- 
priate) these perceptions into the practices of science, which we today generally 
accept as providing relatively accurate (albeit incomplete), usable, and useful 
knowledge of the universe. We also gain valuable knowledge from various of 
the arts, especially literature, and most particularly from narrative fiction — 
including science fiction. This viewpoint is not uncontroversial, but it is sup- 
ported in a number of sources. There is, however, a further knowledge resource 
to which I would call special attention: the emotions. 1 contend that emotion 
is epistemologically relevant, and that emotions are actually a strong source of 
viable knowledge about the world. Knowledge gained via emotions is not often 
straightforward or unambiguous; nevertheless, we acquire valid and applicable 
knowledge from not only scientific experiments and imaginative novels, but 
also emotions. While the epistemological processes by which we gain such 
knowledge are neither simple nor easily negotiated, they are important, and 
attempting to understand them is clearly worthwhile. Since developing a case 
supporting the epistemic value of emotions is beyond the scope of this chapter, 
I can only suggest some relevant conclusions here. 

Actually, emotions have recently become a “hot” topic in a number of 
fields. Psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists, sociologists, anthropolo- 
gists, literary scholars, and cognitive researchers are among those who have 
shown an interest in studying emotions. Among the most provocative and inter- 
esting of findings, conclusions, and claims to emerge from this increasing atten- 
tion to emotion are the various links which have been found between, for 
instance, emotion and rationality, feelings and reason, affect and values. Men- 
tioning three scholars active in this area will provide a brief taste of the kind 
and diversity of current work on emotion. 

One of the most well-known and influential of the new students of emotion 
is neurologist Antonio R. Damasio, whose years of clinical work on patients 
with brain lesions made him examine the role of emotion with respect to reason 
and rationality. Damasio produces plausible clinical evidence supporting claims 
for a critical role for emotion in rational thinking itself. Without adequate 
emotional involvement, humans are incapable of proper logical reasoning and 
are unable to function socially. Furthermore, says Damasio, emotion is also 
central to the entire process of consciousness.' 

From a completely different tradition, philosopher Bennett W. Helm 
mounts, in a book appropriately entitled Emotional Reason, a sophisticated 
attack on what he calls the cognitive-conative divide: the belief, traditionally 
dominant in philosophy, that any intentional mental state must be either cog- 

2. Emotionality of Transmimetic Fiction (McKinney) 


nitive (e.g., belief or judgment) or conative (e.g., desire) but never both, “since 
cognitive and conative states seem to be fundamentally different kinds of 
states.”^ Among Helm’s contentions is the claim that 

emotions and evaluative judgements are rationally interconnected in that each can, 
in a way correct the other [....] emotions must be understood as concept-laden, pas- 
sive assents, and evaluative judgements must be understood as having (or lacking) 
a kind of emotional depth; evaluative judgements and emotions therefore normally 
constitute a single evaluative perspective [24]. 

Finally, philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum has written at length, elegantly 
and effectively, on the relationship between literature and ethics, in books such 
as Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature (1990) and Poetic Justice: 
The Literary Imagination and Public Life (1995). Nussbaum’s Upheavals of 
Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (2001) investigates the emotions in depth. 
In this book, whose title was inspired by Marcel Proust’s comment that love 
causes “real geological upheavals of thought,”’ Nussbaum explores the links 
between emotion, reasoning, and value. As she puts it, 

A lot is at stake in the decision to view emotions [...] as intelligent responses to the 
perception of value. If emotions are suffused with intelligence and discernment, and 
they contain in themselves an awareness of value or importance, they cannot, for 
example, easily be sidelined in accounts of ethical judgement, as so often they have 
been in the history of philosophy. Instead of viewing morality as a system of prin- 
ciples to be grasped by the detached intellect, and emotions as motivations that either 
support or subvert our choice to act according to principle, we will have to consider 
emotions as part and parcel of the system of ethical reasoning. We cannot plausibly 
omit them, once we acknowledge that emotions include in their content judgements 
that can be true or false, and good or bad guides to ethical choice [1]. 

Emotions are, in short, more pervasive and more central, in both the 
rational and ethical spheres of life, than has traditionally been admitted, or 
even in some cases known. Of course, none would deny that emotion is directly 
evident in all our lives. We do things because of emotional commitments. Our 
most important actions— no matter how well supported by rational reason- 
ing — are carried out because of the strengths of our emotional attachments to 
particular goals and aims. In cases requiring major, perhaps even hazardous, 
investments of time and energy, but absent a strong emotional dimension, our 
motivations are seldom strong or compelling enough to support necessary 
actions. We explore the unknown, fight the good fight, defend homes and fam- 
ilies, and sacrifice for loved ones not for coolly rational reasons alone, but 
because we care, because we burn with desire and passion, because of fear, 
dread, envy, awe, or wonder. Campaigns, causes, movements, adventures, and 
affairs are more often than not emotionally driven. It is a mystery that the cen- 
trality of emotion has been long downplayed, or even denied, with respect to 
its role in our knowledge of the world. 

Emotions, then, are clearly relevant in discussions of narrative fiction. We 
obviously become engaged emotionally with books we read and films we watch. 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

In fact, much philosophical attention has focused on the so-called “paradox” 
of real readers’ emotional involvement with fictional characters d Why, the issue 
can be phrased, do I care about the fates of Anna Karenina, Raskolnikov, or Hum- 
bert Humbert (to give three examples from major mainstream novels by Russian 
authors) when I recognize that they are just characters in novels, however well- 
written those novels may be? To cite four SF works, the first three of which are 
discussed below, and the reading of all of which I personally found an unavoidably 
emotional experience: why do I react so intensely to the ultimately tragic fates 
of Charlie Gordon in “Flowers for Algernon,” Kamala Shastri and Michael Burr 
in “Think Like a Dinosaur,” P. Burke in “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” or 
Gharles Render in Roger Zelazny’s The Dream Master, when I am aware that these 
people do not exist now, have never done so, and never will?^ Is it not irrational 
to show real feelings for characters we know to be imaginary? Irrational or not 
(and I argue that it is not), I have yet to meet a reader who denies all affective 
reactions to situations and characters found in fiction. Whether we should or 
not, we do experience feelings toward imaginary people and worlds we read about. 
In fact, one can argue that the emotional content of fiction is the only thing about 
it which is, indeed, “true.” The thrust of this argument is that by describing the 
emotional life of characters in novels or stories, authors give readers valid insight 
into aspects of the world otherwise not available to them. A novel’s portrayal of 
love, hate, fear, jealousy, or other human feelings can convey an accurate repre- 
sentation of the nature of these emotions — even if the specific details of characters 
and events found in the book are entirely imaginary. 

Daniel Keyes’s “Flowers for Algernon,” often considered a classic of twen- 
tieth-century science fiction, started life as a novelette published in The Mag- 
azine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in April, 1959 and was subsequently awarded 
a Hugo Award for best short fiction of the year. By 1966, Keyes had, while retain- 
ing the basic plot-line, expanded, developed, and deepened the story into a 
novel which received a Nebula Award from the Science Fiction Writers of Amer- 
ica for best SF novel of the year. Later, film, stage, and television adaptations 
of the story would be made. The film, entitled Charly, won Cliff Robertson an 
Oscar as Best Actor for his portrayal of the story’s protagonist. For concision, 
I refer only to the novelette, although many observations are equally applicable 
to both the short and long tellings of the tale, but not always to its cinematic 
and dramatic versions.'’ 

“Flowers for Algernon” tells the story of Charlie Gordon — who today 
would be labeled developmentally challenged (but would have been called 
retarded when the story was first written) — through his own words. That Charlie 
is mentally disadvantaged is apparent literally from the opening words of the 
narrative, which begins like this: 

progris riport 1 — martch 5 

Dr. Strauss says I shud rite down what I think and evrey thing that happins to me 

from now on. I dont know why but he says it importint so they will see if they will 

2. Emotionality of Transmimetic Fiction (McKinney) 


use me. I hope they use me. Miss Kinnian says maybe they can make me smart. I 
want to be smart. My name is Charlie Gordon. I am 37 years old and 2 weeks ago 
was my birthday. I have nuthing more to rite now so I will close for today.^ 

The entire novelette is then told through Charlie’s subsequent “progress reports” 
(and one letter). At heart, Charlie is a kind person, but low intelligence has left 
him isolated and alone, unable to connect except in a superficial manner with 
people around him, and easily taken advantage of, though he himself often 
does not realize he is being victimized by thoughtless or cruel individuals. A 
major theme of the work is the possibility of significantly enhancing human 
(and, it turns out, mouse — in this case the Algernon of the title) intelligence 
by means of an experimental and potentially dangerous operation. With the 
aid of Miss Kinnian, a teacher in his adult night school, Charlie volunteers for 
this procedure and is, despite his low I.Q. score of 68, exceptionally well-moti- 
vated to become, as he himself puts it, “smart.” After a successful operation on 
Algernon allows the mouse to achieve considerable improvement at running 
mazes, the experiment is performed on Charlie. The initially gradual but 
increasingly profound changes in his mental abilities are dramatically and effec- 
tively conveyed to readers via the radical changes in both the style and content 
of his progress reports. Eventually, his intellectual capacities easily surpass not 
only those of Kinnian, but also those of the doctors and scientists who designed 
and performed the experiment. Charlie finds that the differences in his own 
abilities and those of people around him again isolate him from others, this 
time from the opposite side of a gap in intelligence. He soon realizes that he 
should “avoid all discussions of intellectual concepts” when with Kinnian, and 
he “tries to keep the conversation on a simple, everyday level, but she just stared 
at me blankly and asked me what I meant about the mathematical variance 
equivalent in Dobermann’s Fifth Concerto” (210-211). Charlie is also surprised 
to discover an unexpected weakness in one principal scientist: “How was I to 
know that a highly respected psychoexperimentalist like Nemur was unac- 
quainted with Hindustani and Chinese? It’s absurd when you consider the work 
that is being done in India and China today in the very field of his study” (210). 
Charlie begins to cope, however, until tragedy strikes when they discover that 
Algernon is slowly losing his increased mental capacity, in a seemingly irre- 
versible decline leading not just to a less acute mental state, but to death — a 
development boding decidedly ill for Charlie’s own future. 

The rhetorical strategy (which might be called narrative technique by lit- 
erary scholars) used by Keyes of telling the entire story in Charlie Gordon’s 
own words is a central reason why “Flowers for Algernon” has such a strong 
emotional impact. We follow Charlie from the inside, so to speak. His progres- 
sion from someone who can barely read and write to someone at a genius level 
is a journey which we readers share, and since it is presented so well, we scarcely 
realize that we have never actually known what it is like to be either intellectually 
handicapped or exceptionally gifted. Keyes makes us feel what those states of 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

being are like, however, and we share plausible emotional experiences with 
Charlie, becoming convinced that we have tasted two opposite ends of the intel- 
lectual spectrum. Even more so, we have known the pain and joy of the climb 
from being “dumb” to being “smart.” This is why, when the deterioration of 
Charlie’s capacities is foreshadowed by Algernon’s tragic fate, we fear so deeply 
what will happen: we have, thanks to Charlie’s progress reports, been there, 
and we know where Charlie is headed. It is also why the last portion of the nov- 
elette, which symmetrically balances the protagonist’s decline with his earlier 
advances, is so agonizing, with increasingly poorly written descriptions of the 
ineffective and finally desperate attempts by Charlie and the scientists to find 
a way to reverse the disintegration of his mind and halt his slide toward intel- 
lectual darkness: the Charlie Gordon of “progris riport 1” is returning. 

It is difficult to see how the ethical points Keyes wished to make could 
have been made equally effectively without using the medium of fiction and 
impact of emotion. Our ethical reactions to (to give one example) the manner 
in which Charlie becomes an unknowing victim of the cruel jokes of workmates 
are strong just because they are strongly emotional. The degree of ethical 
involvement with the various issues touched upon in the novelette is dependent 
on (or, at the least, related to) the degree of emotional involvement: therefore, 
our ethical stance is determined in part by our emotional position. 

For my second example of transmimetic fiction, I turn to Nancy Kress’s 
four works known jointly as the Sleepless series. This sequence began in April, 
1991 with the publication in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine of the 
novella “Beggars in Spain,” a title subsequently used for the first of what would 
become a trio of novels. The novella was well received and won not only a poll 
among readers of the magazine, but also two of science fiction’s most prestigious 
awards, the Hugo and Nebula. In fact, the text that forms the first section of 
Beggars in Spain (1993) is not substantially different from the novella. Over the 
next few years, Kress followed the first book with two additional ones. Beggars 
and Choosers (1996) and Beggars Ride (1997), and a short story, “Sleeping Dogs” 
(1999), published in Robert Silverberg’s anthology Far Horizons. All later works 
have been highly praised, and each novel was nominated for awards, although 
none managed to quite capture the accolades bestowed on the original novella. 
Here, rather than focusing on one text, I will discuss the entire cycle of Sleepless 

Works in the Sleepless sequence concern —from a number of perspectives, 
over a period of several years— the personal and social, practical and ethical 
consequences of several significant technological changes, including a cheap 
and easily available energy source, but with a focus on the anticipated as well 
as unexpected consequences of various forms of genetic engineering. As the 
story begins in 2008, attempts to genetically modify human children so that 
they will not need to sleep has spectacular and unforeseen side effects: virtually 
a new race is produced. The Sleepless, as these genetically altered individuals 

2. Emotionality of Transmimetic Fiction (McKinney) 


come to be known, are not only gifted with greater intelligence, better at prob- 
lem-solving, and more joyous than the population as a whole, but also, it turns 
out, far healthier — so healthy, in fact, that they possess an evident immunity 
to both depression and disease, and the ability to regenerate damaged tissue 
which implies de facto eternal youth and potentially endless life spans. Kress 
explores the results of these and other subsequent developments for particular 
individuals and for society as a whole. 

Early in Beggars in Spain, Kress explains the book’s title by allowing two 
main characters, Tony Indivino and Leisha Camden, to have this discussion. 
Tony asks Leisha what she will do about “beggars in Spain”: 

“You walk down a street in a poor country like Spain and you see a beggar. Do you 
give him a dollar?” [asks Tony] 


“Why? He’s trading nothing with you. He has nothing to trade.” 

“I know. Out of kindness. Compassion.” 

“You see six beggars. Do you give them all a dollar?” 

“Probably.” Leisha said. 

“You would. You see a hundred beggars and you haven’t got Leisha Camden’s 
money. Do you give them each a dollar?” 


“Why not?”* 

This, in a nutshell, is the central conundrum of Beggars in Spain, and 
indeed, of the entire trilogy, as the word beggar in the titles indicates. In many 
ways, it is a recapitulation of a classic theme of Haves vs. Have-Nots, Rich vs. 
Poor. From a different but not unrelated perspective, it is the story of Superiors 
vs. Normals. And in each instance, it is a reiteration of Us vs. Them. Time and 
again, Kress returns to this issue, repeatedly redefining who is a beggar, who 
begs for what, from whom — at times reinterpreting the very concept of beggar 
itself, often with surprising consequences and impressive emotional impact. 
What, asks Kress in continually new and interesting — if sometimes unset- 
tling-ways, are we— the readers— going to do about beggars in Spain? 

Kress reports in interviews that she continued writing the Sleepless series 
because she kept realizing that there was still something to be said on the central 
topics and themes of each work. What initially appeared to be answers to ques- 
tions she asked proved only take-off points to further questions. Kress does not 
simply re-word the first story a number of times, re-telling the original tale 
with slight modifications of setting or tone — she genuinely tries to re-investi- 
gate the issues of the case, to re-examine the conundrums posed from new and 
alternative viewpoints, to explore areas of import initially given too little atten- 
tion. This gives the works which make up the Sleepless sequence a kind of built- 
in reflexivity, a continual self-questioning which, by the end of the series, has 
taught us to never trust final conclusions. This becomes one of the main insights 
to be gleaned from the sequence as a whole : there is always another perspective 
from which to view a situation, there will forever be at least one more way to 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

look at things. This rhetorical strategy of returning repeatedly to the same ques- 
tions to re-investigate them is yet another example of an approach which would 
be difficult or impossible to adopt in scientific texts. Furthermore, the emotional 
landscape changes each time a new perspective is introduced and explored, 
allowing Kress an opportunity to present a more nuanced argument concerning 
genetic engineering than is ofttimes heard. Gene modification is neither naively 
and blindly accepted as something intrinsically good, nor fearfully and unequiv- 
ocally condemned as something inherently evil. The Sleepless series makes it 
abundantly clear that, for Kress, developments in biogenetics, like most scien- 
tific discoveries, have enormous potential to either help or harm humankind — 
most probably both. 

By 2114, in Beggars and Choosers, biological modification of plants is com- 
monplace. Diana Covington, a central character in the book, owns such gene- 
mod flowers: 

they cascaded over the terrace railing, a riot of blues much more varied that the 
colors of San Francisco Bay, six stories below. Cobalt, robin’s egg, aquamarine, azure, 
cyan, turquoise, cerulean [....] The gene geniuses had shaped each blossom into a 
soft fluttery tube with a domed end. The blossoms were quite long. Essentially, my 
terrace frothed with flaccid, blue, vegetable penises.’ 

These flowers are legal, but the dog which her neighbor, Stephanie, brings along 
on a visit appears not to be. Stephanie named the dog Katous (somewhat per- 
versely, since katous is Arabic for cat). Diana describes the scene: 

The dog followed her from the cool dimness of my apartment [onto the terrace] and 
stood blinking and sniffing in the bright sunlight. It was clearly, aggressively, illegally 
genemod. The Genetic Standards Enforcement Agency may allow fanciful tinkering 
with flowers, but not with animal phyla higher than fish. The roles are very clear, 
backed up by court cases whose harsh financial penalties make them even clearer. 
No genemods that cause pain. No genemods that create weaponry, in its widest de- 
finition. No genemods that “alter external appearance or basic internal functioning 
such that a creature deviates significantly from other members of not only its own 
species but also its breed” [9]. 

Nonetheless, Diana notes, 

here was Stephanie, theoretically an officer of the law, standing on my terrace flank- 
ed by a prison-sentence GSEA violation in pink fur. Katous had four adorable pink 
ears, identically cocked, aural Rockettes. It had an adorable pink fur rabbit’s tail. It 
had huge brown eyes, three times the size of any dog’s eyes [...] giving it a soulful, 
sorrowing look [9-10]. 

Most alarming, Katous can talk: “FFis vocabulary is only twenty-two words. 
Although he understands more than that” (11). Actually, the dog is technically 
legal, being “a beta-test prototype for the foreign market,” Stephanie explains, 
adding, “Think of all those Chinese and EC and South American rich old ladies 
who will just love a nauseatingly cute, helpless, unthreateningly sentient, short- 
lived, very expensive lapdog with no teeth” (13). 

2. Emotionality of Transmimetic Fiction (McKinney) 


At this point, the genemod dog is frightened by Diana’s robot, Hudson: 

Katous scrambled away, his four ears quivering. His scramble brought him sideways 
against a bank of flowers, all of which tried to wrap themselves around him. One 
long flaccid petal settled over his eyes. Katous yelped and pulled loose, his eyes wild. 
He shot across the terrace. 

“Help!” he cried. “Help Katous!” 

On that side of the terrace I had planted moondust in shallow boxes between the 
palings, to make a low border that wouldn’t obstruct the view of the bay. Katous’s 
frightened flight barreled him into the mooondust’s sensor field. It released a cloud 
of sweet-smelling blue fibers, fine as milkweed. The dog breathed them in, and yelped 
again [....] Katous ran in a ragged circle, then leaped blindly. He hurled between the 
wide-set palings and over the edge of the terrace. 

The sound of his body hitting the pavement below made Hudson turn its sensors 

This disturbing scene comes early in Beggars and Choosers, and describes 
a pivotal event in the novel. In addition to providing an introduction to Cov- 
ington, it explains her motivation for contacting and working for the GSEA. “1 
gave a last look over the railing at the smashed, semi-sentient, pathetic, and 
expensive dog. The ultimate in American technology and values” (18). The 
scene also serves as a capsule presentation of some potential dangers in com- 
mercial genetic engineering, and of difficulties of its control. 

Whereby Keyes focused his attention in “Flowers for Algernon” on chang- 
ing the intelligence of a single human and emphasizing the consequences of 
that development for that particular human, Kress supplies a multitude of 
changes, modifications, and transformations on a large number of humans over 
a relatively long span of time, emphasizing a myriad of potential biogenetic 
effects not only for individuals but also society as a whole. The emotional 
dimensions of Kress’ stories are therefore significantly different from those of 
Keyes, but no less important for that. To put it somewhat schematically, emo- 
tional involvement with Charlie Gordon provides essentially an experience of 
depth, while the emotional landscape of the Sleepless tales is one of breadth. 

Characters in the works of both Keyes and Kress confront major new sci- 
entific discoveries and crucial technological transformations. As a result, they 
undergo significant affective experiences. The technoscientific causes of and 
social circumstances surrounding these emotional encounters are unique, with- 
out equal in the present or past. The emotional reactions of the novelette’s char- 
acters— and readers— to Charlie’s operation and theories upon which it rests 
can therefore be characterized as new to the world. Similarly, the affective 
response to the genetic engineering and cheap energy of the world of Camden 
and her fellow Sleepless is also, in some sense, new. A detailed, in-depth explo- 
ration of the nature of these new emotional experiences can yield significant 
insight into possible emotional structures of the world of the future. 

In a manner parallel to the way SF examines new emotional configurations, 
so too can entirely new ethical questions and dilemmas become the focus of 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

science fiction. In fact, all the transmimetic examples discussed in this chapter 
provide examples of this, although I will next focus on James Patrick Kelly’s 
“Think Like a Dinosaur.” This story first appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction 
in 1995, and it was awarded a Hugo in the best novella category. “Think Like 
a Dinosaur” is narrated by Michael Burr, who is a part-time assistant, in the 
year 2069, at Tuulen Station on Earth’s moon, to a race of alien beings, the 
Hanen, who resemble dinosaurs and are technologically far superior to humans. 
At the sufferance of the aliens, humans are, in limited ways and under alien 
supervision, allowed access to the wider universe outside Earth’s solar system. 
Not all aliens feel that humans are ready for the stars, seeing Homo sapiens as 
backward and childish creatures. The story involves Kamala Shastri, a girl en 
route to the planet Gend via a kind of quantum teleportation process. After 
coming to Tuulen by shuttle, she is scheduled to be teleported to the distant 
Gend using advanced technology provided by the Hanen. Michael’s job is stay- 
ing in contact with Shastri during her short stay and otherwise assisting the 
aliens in whatever manner needed. Shastri must undergo various procedures 
enabling her to be sent to her destination, some of them unpleasant, and not 
all of which she is totally ready for. Most drastically, her body and consciousness 
must be translated into a superluminal signal. She is inexperienced at interstellar 
travel and expresses strong doubts about her journey. Nonetheless, after Michael 
allays some of her fears, she is placed in the “marble,” as the machine is called, 
which will transform her into a signal to be beamed across the universe. After 
she arrives successfully, her “old” body, still in the marble, will be destroyed “to 
balance the equation,” as Michael explains it.“ But something goes wrong dur- 
ing the procedure, and Michael is informed by the Hanen in charge, Silloin, 
that she has not arrived on the target planet. She is retrieved from the marble, 
in a state of great agitation because of what she experienced during the tele- 
portation attempt, and Michael tries to calm her down. 

So far, the story is relatively straightforward and its ethical dimensions 
are minimal. This changes as Michael learns that Shastri has, after all, been 
successfully teleported to Gend. A communications glitch of some kind (totally 
outside of Michael’s control) prevented the information on her transfer from 
reaching the moon as it should have. That a version of her is still alive and, all 
things considered, relatively well, at Tuulen is a disaster of major proportions. 
There is no balance in the equation if there are two identical Shastris (neither 
cognizant of the other) in the universe. The one still in Tuulen must be 
destroyed. This can be accomplished if she is lured into re-entering the marble, 
incorrectly believing that she will attempt the transfer a second time. Actually, 
she will be destroyed. Unfortunately, her previous experience leads Shastri to 
cancel plans to visit the alien world, choosing instead to return to Earth, some- 
thing she has a right to do. To Silloin, however, this is not an option. It is 
Michael’s duty to get rid of Shastri. If he does not do so, the Hanen will kill 
her themselves, possibly gruesomely, and the event will also reflect badly on 

2. Emotionality of Transmimetic Fiction (McKinney) 


humanity as a whole. Michael commits the deed, by tricking Kamala into an 
airlock and opening the airlock’s outer doors to the vacuum of the moon’s sur- 
face. The story concludes (as indeed, it opens) with a scene in which Michael 
again briefly meets Shastri (who of course is totally ignorant of the fate — or 
the existence — of her quantum Ddppelganger) on her return from Gend after 
three years. She is happy at the success of her journey, and a bit embarrassed 
at the unreasonable fear she had felt while waiting for her initial transmission. 
As she tells Michael: “T feel so silly now. I mean, I was in the marble for less 
than a minute and then’— she snapped her fingers— ‘there I was on Gend, just 
like you said’” (27). 

What is relevant in this context is that Michael’s ethical dilemma is truly 
science fictional. It has never existed previously and could only exist either in 
a work of fiction or, possibly, in the future. While many of the underlying ethical 
issues are certainly not new, this particular manifestation of them is. Of course, 
the idea of teleportation itself, a staple science fiction theme, is not unique to 
this story. Notwithstanding this fact, “Think Like a Dinosaur” forces readers 
and Michael to consider a potential moral quandary from the future. Michael’s 
ultimate decision, and its consequences for himself, for Shastri, and for human- 
ity’s relationship to the Hanen, deserve serious ethical investigation. 

This brings up the troubled relationship between aesthetics and ethics, 
which has probably been debated for as long as aesthetic and ethical ideas have 
existed. No consensus exists even today, though most contemporary philoso- 
phers feel that various attempts to unite the two — usually by making one deriv- 
ative of, or largely subordinate to, the other — have failed. The complexities of 
this long-running controversy can only be hinted at here, but I believe that the 
ethical and the aesthetic can be most usefully understood as two aspects, or 
dimensions, of a single unity, and that, furthermore, much of the ethical can, 
in a significant manner, be successfully and sufficiently well-described in terms 
of what historically has been seen as the aesthetic. 

While one may acknowledge that some emotional engagement with a work 
of fiction is appropriate, at least while initially reading that work, until recently 
(with the advent of feminists and certain philosophers of art), most aestheti- 
dans argued that it becomes necessary to retreat to a safe “aesthetic distance” 
(a term coined in 1912 by Edward Bullough) when evaluating the work, some- 
thing almost always done on largely formal, ostensibly aesthetic, grounds. In 
addition to the basic impossibility of distinguishing form from content, a seri- 
ous problem with this approach is the difficulty of actually distancing oneself 
from works which touch one most deeply. Moreover, our emotional reactions 
to fiction often display irreducible ethical characteristics or dimensions. We 
are angry because the protagonist has broken a moral code and come out on 
top, sad because we feel justice has been poorly served, or happy because right 
has triumphed over wrong. If a novel or movie makes me angry, sad, or joyous, 
it may not be possible to view it with the detachment traditionally demanded 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

by philosophers. This may seem a naive viewpoint, one which it should be 
desirable and possible, some would hold, to overcome with time, experience, 
and training. I contest that argument, however, since I claim that it is intrin- 
sically impossible to separate (at least all aspects of) the aesthetic from the eth- 

Let’s examine some examples. How do we evaluate independently the aes- 
thetic aspects of a work whose central artistic tone and structure are deeply 
committed to sending a particular ethical, moral, or political message, as is the 
case with propaganda? How do I judge the art of a work whose primary artistic 
purpose is sending such a message? Such a work will succeed aesthetically if 
and only if the intended ethical or political communication succeeds. And what 
if the ethical stance is repulsive? A relevant example here is Leni Riefenstahl’s 
film Triumph of the Will, in which the ethical and the aesthetic cannot be dis- 
entangled, according to Mary Devereaux: 

Triumph of the Will is a work of artistic mastery [...] not merely because of the film’s 
purely formal features [...] but, perhaps most important, because of its artistic vision, 
its particular utterly horrifying vision of Hitler and National Socialism. That vision 
is the essence of the film. 

If taking an attitude of aesthetic distance means paying attention only to the formal 
aspects of the work (to the image and not to what it means), then aesthetic distance 
fails in the case of Triumph of the Will because it requires us to ignore the essence 
of the film." 

Moving to somewhat different examples, authors of horror fiction wish to 
cause feelings of fear or dread in audiences, while authors of comedy wants to 
produce laughter. The artistic success of horror and comedy rest, in part, on 
how well the respective responses are present in their audiences. Analogously, 
one can argue that a central artistic goal of pornography is to produce sexual 
arousal in its audiences. If it doesn’t turn you on, it is not successful porn. If 
one feels (as some dearly do) that it is ethically questionable to create materials 
which affect audiences as does erotica, then porn which is successful in its aes- 
thetic aims is automatically an ethical failure because of its aesthetic success. 

Of course, there are other ways in which the aesthetic is linked with the 
ethical in works of art. Creators of artworks may wish to convey a moral or 
ethical message in their work. Yet, to successfully send that message to the audi- 
ence, artists must make certain decisions concerning how to structure their 
novel, movie, or painting: which colors to use on the canvas, what camera 
angles from which to film the action, which words to use to describe the char- 
acters, or in how much detail to present the background. These decisions may 
appear to be purely aesthetic — but of course they are not. Those colors, camera 
angles, character descriptions, and background details will almost certainly also 
affect — possibly crucially — how well the work’s moral message comes across. 
In extreme cases, the aesthetic structures and styles in a given piece of art may 
even determine what that moral message consists of. 

2. Emotionality of Transmimetic Fiction (McKinney) 


Let me illustrate my point with the SF novella “The Girl Who Was Plugged 
In” by James Tiptree, Jr., originally published in 1973 in Robert Silverberg’s 
anthology New Dimensions 3. At that time, it was not generally known that 
Tiptree was a pseudonym for Alice Sheldon. The story received a Hugo Award 
as best SF novella published in 1973 and has been reprinted several times. The 
passage quoted here only hints at the diversity of voices with which Tiptree 
speaks in her fiction, but it does indicate something of the enormous potential 
for language usage into which she could — and often did — tap. The excerpt 
comes from the beginning of the story, and is, in fact, the first thing which hits 
readers as they start to read the text: 

Listen, zombie. Believe me. What I could tell you — you with your silly hands leaking 
sweat on your growth-stocks portfolio. One-ten lousy hacks of AT&T on twenty- 
percent margin and you think you’re Evel Knievel. AT&T... You doubleknit dummy, 
how I’d love to show you something. 

Look, dead daddy I’d say See for instance that rotten girl? In the crowd over there, 
that one gaping at her gods. One rotten girl in the city of the future. (That’s what I 
said.) Watch. She’s jammed among bodies, craning and peering with her soul yearn- 
ing out of her eyeballs. Love! Oo-ooh, love them! Her gods are coming out of a store 
called Body East. Three youngbloods, larking along loverly Dressed like simple 
street-people but ... smashing. See their great eyes swivel above their nose-filters, 
their hands lift shyly their inhumanly tender lips melt? The crowd moans. Love! 
This whole boiling megacity this whole fun future world loves its gods. 

You don’t believe in gods, dad? Wait. Whatever turns you on, there’s a god in the 
future for you, custom-made. Listen to this mob. “I touched his foot! Ow-oow, I 
TOUCHED Him!” ... Ah, there’s plenty to swing with here — and it’s not all that far in 
the future, dad. But pass up the sci-fi stuff for now, like for instance the holovision 
technology that’s put TV and radio in museums. Or the worldwide carrier field 
bouncing down from satellites, controlling communication and transport systems 
all over the globe. That was a spin-off from asteroid mining, pass it by We’re watch- 
ing that girl.'^ 

All the artistic choices Tiptree made in writing this novella, all the potential 
aesthetic options she chose among — the voice in which the story is told; the 
slang used; the way the (unnamed) author speaks directly to the reader; the 
irrelevance, irony, and satire which saturates the text; even the manner in which 
the main character is identified throughout only as R Burke, with no first name 
given (not apparent in the citation here) — these narrative decisions were also 
ethical/moral ones, with significant emotional consequences for readers. Your 
and my reactions to reading this tale will certainly be different if any of these 
aspects of its language or structure have been altered, and our ethical “take” on 
it will also likely have changed. Even Sheldon’s decision to use — and choice 
of — a pseudonym has ethical implications— as debates concerning the success 
or failure of the “male” author Tiptree to accurately represent the viewpoints 
of women in “his” fiction demonstrate. 

Finally, something about rhetoric: all authors, including those in the social 
and natural sciences, use rhetorical techniques. The rhetorical rules and regu- 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

lations for narrative fiction are different, however, from those in, say, art history, 
sociology, psychology, or astrophysics. But they do exist, and authors within 
each tradition are aware of the paradigmatic rhetorical norms and learn to apply 
them appropriately, a process which includes knowledge of when and to what 
degree standard rules may be bent or broken. 1 would even argue that all writers, 
even those in academic disciplines, use rhetorical techniques to involve readers 
emotionally in the arguments of their texts, although demonstrating this is a 
task outside the scope of this chapter. Whatever the case may be, it is commonly 
via rhetoric that the emotional and the aesthetic-ethical are linked, in various 

Please note that 1 am not just rehashing the critique popular several years 
ago among postmodern cultural and social scholars that more or less everything 
should be seen as discourse, as text. From this initial premise the conclusion 
was often drawn (however questionably) that, therefore, everything is relative 
and there are no secure foundations of knowledge about the world. This so- 
called “rhetorical turn” was described by Richard Harvey Brown in a 1994 essay: 

It has become a commonplace that social and cultural reality, and the social sciences 
themselves, are linguistic constructions. Not only is society viewed increasingly as 
a text, but scientific texts are seen as rhetorical constructions. In this rhetorical view, 
reality and truth are formed through practices of representation and interpretation 
[...] knowledge is viewed as poetically and politically constituted, “made” by human 
communicative action that develops historically and is institutionalized politically.'^ 

Admitting that this capsule summary is incomplete and extremely sim- 
plified, and accepting that much which is viable and useful has come from 
debates concerning the rhetorical turn and social construction — but without 
wading too deeply into the murky intellectual waters surrounding this complex 
issue — I point out that my goals herein are both more modest and mainly dif- 
ferent than those of the original discussants. I am not trying to undermine, or 
even question, the authority of the sciences. Neither am I saying that because 
every discourse has a rhetorical dimension, we should discount the validity or 
“truth values” of them all. In fact, I am trying to do something of the opposite. 
When applied in the proper manner to appropriate areas of existence, the sci- 
ences are excellent tools. We should openly acknowledge this and continue to 
use them whenever we can. However, we must also accept that there are sig- 
nificant aspects of the world with which the sciences are not equipped — indeed, 
were never designed — to deal. As noted, art, especially literature, can deal with 
certain of these aspects. The emotions can deal with others. And of course, 
there are other modes of understanding the universe (e.g., mathematics) which 
can tackle yet other realms of knowledge. 

The perspectivism of Friedrich Nietzsche — in which it is claimed that 
knowledge is always limited, achieved via a single one of many possible per- 
spectives on any given question — is often quoted in this context to support an 
argument against all forms of foundational knowledge. Yet Nietzsche, after all. 

2. Emotionality of Transmimetic Fiction (McKinney) 


was an enemy of nihilism and surely never intended his perspectivism to lead 
to paralysis in the face of competing views of morality, or even of diverse 
descriptions of reality. He saw perspectivism as a tool to improve one’s nego- 
tiation of various versions of the world. Accepting a recognizably Nietzschean 
perspectivism is not necessarily equivalent to discarding all epistemic (or, for 
that matter, other) values. Rather than discredit the viability of the epistemic, 
which many earlier entrants in the debate on rhetoric apparently wanted to do, 
I wish to valorize its emotional and ethical-aesthetic dimensions, though I 
would be the first to admit — and even emphasize — that this path is fraught 
with risk. Risk worth taking, however, since the alternative is a willful blindness 
and resultant lack of adequate knowledge needed for a better and more complete 
understanding of the world. 

Let me conclude this chapter with some suggestions regarding how all the 
above is relevant for transmimetic fiction and possible tomorrows. Much SF 
tries to see what tomorrow might bring, especially in terms of new science or 
altered technology. The social, political, and personal effects of new discoveries 
and inventions are common subjects for science fiction, which has often been 
characterized as the literature of change, the genre dealing with consequences. 
As Frederik Pohl said in 1965, “this is the thing — the one thing, maybe the only 
thing — that science-fiction does better than any other tool available to hand. 
It gives us a look at consequences. And it does it superbly.”'^ What is relevant 
for this discussion is that it is often the ethical consequences of future devel- 
opments which are explored. The questions asked in the fiction are often moral 
questions. And when ethical evaluations of these issues are then provided — 
whether openly or indirectly— they are almost always couched in emotional 
terms: a happy tomorrow only works when it moves us; warnings are only effec- 
tive if they are affective. 

Science and technology will not only re-structure the future in social and 
material terms, it will re-make it in affective ones. SF can introduce readers to 
new and unique emotions, never previously part of the world, but potentially 
part of the world of tomorrow. This can occur in various ways, of which I men- 
tion only a few examples. After sharing the emotional entanglement of a novel’s 
protagonist with transformations wrought by significant technoscientific 
changes, readers of transmimetic fiction can be spurred to reflect on their own 
possible responses to such potential changes. But it is not solely by illuminating 
the emotional reactions of the characters of fictional futures that SF addresses 
emotional issues. With good science fiction, readers are invited, perhaps even 
compelled, to themselves react emotionally to new situations and circumstances. 
A transmimetic writer may also choose to introduce beings or creatures new 
to our experience — such as androids and aliens— and readers can hardly help 
but to respond afifectivity to such entities. Immersing readers in a radically dif- 
ferent physical or social landscape (on another planet or in the far future) can 
easily elicit strong emotional reactions at the strangeness or alienness of the 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

world, even when (perhaps most especially when) the circumstances described 
are mundane and everyday for the story’s characters. 

This brings me to one hnal example of science fiction: Vernor Vinge’s A 
Fire upon the Deep (1992). This is the first of a pair of novels sharing the same 
fictional universe, the second being A Deepness in the Sky (1999). Both novels 
received Hugo Awards as best SF novel of the year, both were finalists for Neb- 
ulas, and each has received a great deal of attention and additional honors. 
These novels might be called wide-screen or baroque space opera (a designation 
I do not intend pejoratively), set in the distant future against a backdrop of 
far-flung space exploration and extensive human interactions with multiple 
alien races. Both books effectively illustrate how transmimetic fiction can emo- 
tionally engage and involve readers not only through characters found in a 
book, but also the imaginary worlds depicted therein. If authors are sufficiently 
powerful in their descriptions of fictional landscapes, then those landscapes 
themselves can move readers. Feelings of awe or wonder, for instance, can be 
engendered by sublime portrayals of alien worlds or natural vistas of the uni- 
verse. Indeed, does not at least some of science fiction’s much praised “sense 
of wonder”— clearly an emotional reaction — derive from and depend upon 
such a rhetorical strategy? Future social landscapes can also be effective at evok- 
ing strong reactions in the reading public. And tomorrow’s social and physical 
artifacts, too, can sometimes be relatively awesome creations. In A Fire upon 
the Deep, for example, Vinge offers us a preview of what a kind of interstellar 
internet might be like: “The Known Net was a vast thing, a hierarchical anarchy 
that linked hundreds of millions of worlds [....] The major archives go back 
billions of years, have been maintained by hundreds of different races— most 
now extinct or Transcended into Powers.”'^ But sometimes readers respond 
emotionally to more subtle aspects of a work: the uniqueness of its vision, total- 
ity of its imaginary future, originality of the world created, or the detail and 
complexity with which its version of tomorrow has been worked out. Such is 
the case with the truly original vision of the structure and nature of the universe 
which Vinge provides in A Fire upon the Deep. As the novel progresses, we grad- 
ually realize that the universe is divided into three sections, or Zones: 

In the large, the Zones of Thought followed the mass distribution of the Galaxy: The 
Unthinking Depths extended down to the soft glow of the galactic Core. Farther 
out, the Great Slowness, where humankind had been born, where ultralight could 
not exist and civilizations lived and died unknowing and unknown. And the Beyond, 
the stars about four-fifths out from the center, extending well off-plane to include 
places like Relay. The Known Net had existed in some form for billions of years in 
the Beyond. It was not a civilization; few civilizations lasted longer than a million 
years. But the records of the past were quite complete. Sometimes they were intel- 
ligible. More often, reading them involved translations of translations of translations, 
passed down from one defunct race to another with no one to corroborate — worse 
than any multihop net message could ever be. Yet some things were quite clear: 
There had always been the Zones of Thought, though perhaps they were slightly 
inward-moved now. There had always been wars and peace, and races upwelling 

2. Emotionality of Transmimetic Fiction (McKinney) 


from the Great Slowness, and thousands of little empires. There had always been 
races moving into the Transcend, to become the Powers ... or their prey. (91-92) 

How do I feel when faced with a particular transmimetic future? My emo- 
tional reactions to the circumstances described in a novel or film lead naturally 
to questions concerning the ethical appropriateness or warrant of my responses. 
Why do 1 feel the genetic engineering as depicted in the hook I’m reading is 
good or had, right or wrong? Why am 1 so strongly affected hy the situation of 
Charlie Gordon? What is the correct moral response to the many issues raised 
hy the plight of the Sleepless, or, for that matter, by “normal” people around 
them? What causes my unease at the fates of Shastri or P. Burke, or the anger 
1 feel when considering the actions of Michael, and are these appropriate or 
justifiable reactions? Why does the distant, diverse, and complex universe por- 
trayed in Vinge’s tales of the far future evoke such strong emotions in me? 

The point 1 wish to demonstrate here — given my claim that the aesthetic 
and ethical are diverse aspects of a single unity — is that the emotional and eth- 
ical-aesthetic dimensions of transmimetic fiction are inseparable: the ethical- 
aesthetic is established and validated via the emotional involvement of readers 
while the concrete and embodied emotional responses of those readers instan- 
tiate their abstract ethical-aesthetic judgments and evaluations. And this situ- 
ation is affected substantially, sometimes even determined in large measure, by 
the rhetorical strategies present in the work at hand. It is therefore clear that 
the factors represented by the four terms in my subtitle — emotion, aesthetics, 
ethics, and rhetoric — are best understood as intimately entangled and signifi- 
cantly interconnected. All must be taken into consideration when examining 
the way in which transmimetic fiction portrays science, technology, and techno- 
science in tomorrow’s worlds. 


1. See Antonio R. Damasio, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and theEluman Brain 
(1994; New York: Quill, 2000), and Damasio, The Eeeling of What Elappens: Body, Emo- 
tion and the Making of Consciousness (1999; London: Vintage, 2000). 

2. Bennett W. Helm, Emotional Reason: Deliberation, Motivation, and the Nature of 
Value (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 5. Subsequent page references 
in the text are to this edition. 

3. Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, cited in Martha C. Nussbaum, 
Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 2001), vii. Subsequent page references to Nussbaum’s book in the text are to this 

4. See, for example, Eva M. Dadlez, What’s Hecuba to Him? Fictional Events and 
Actual Emotions (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997), and 
Robert J. Yanal, Paradoxes of Emotion and Fiction (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania 
State University Press, 1999). 

5. Roger Zelazny, The Dream Master (1966; Boston: Gregg Press, 1976). Facsimile of 
the 1966 Ace Books edition. For the other works mentioned, see below. 

6. For significant background information on “Flowers for Algernon,” see Daniel 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

Keyes, Algernon, Charlie and I: A Writer’s Journey (Boca Raton, FL: Challcrest Press, 

7. Keyes, “Flowers for Algernon,” Algernon, Charlie and I: A Writer’s Journey, by 
Keyes (Boca Raton, FL, Challcrest Press, 1999), 189-223. Originally published in The 
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (April, 1959). Subsequent page references in the 
text are to this edition. 

8. Nancy Kress, Beggars in Spain (1993; New York: AvoNova, 1994), 61. 

9. Kress, Beggars and Choosers (1994; New York: Tor, 1996), 8. Subsequent page ref- 
erences in the text are to this edition. 

1 0. James Patrick Kelly, “Think Like a Dinosaur,” Year’s Best SF, ed. David G. Hartwell 
(New York: HarperPrism, 1996), 16. Originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, 
(June, 1995). Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

11. Mary Devereaux, “Beauty and Evil: The Case of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of 
the Will,” Aesthetics and Ethics. Essays at the Intersection, ed. Jerrold Levinson (Cam- 
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 244. 

12. James Tiptree, Jr. [Alice Sheldon], “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” New Dimen- 
sions 3, ed. Robert Silverberg (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973), 60-62. 

13. Richard Harvey Brown, “Rhetoric, Textuality, and the Postmodern Turn in Soci- 
ological Theory,” The Postmodern Turn: New Perspectives on Social Theory, ed. Steven 
Seidman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 229. 

14. Frederik Pohl, “Introduction,” The Ninth Galaxy Reader, ed. Pohl (1965; New 
York: Pocket Books, 1967), vii. 

15. Vernor Vinge, A Fire upon the Deep (1992; New York: Tor, 1993), 73, 82. Subse- 
quent page references in the text are to this edition. 


The Internet and the 
Anagogical Myths of 
Science Fiction 

Kirk Hampton and Carol MacKay 

Science fiction missed its chance to predict the Internet. Certainly the 
World Wide Web as we know it did not become part of the genre’s mythology 
of the future. But looking at some of the anagogical myths of science fiction as 
they evolved over time reveals that writers in the genre have in fact been pre- 
dicting the Internet from the beginning, but doing so in such wildly divergent 
forms that the Web as we know it never materialized. These writers crystallized 
elements of today’s Net with greater precision as technology advanced — their 
vision necessarily distorted by the demands of mythmaking. 

A singular exception is a light-spirited story by Murray Leinster, “A Logic 
Named loe” (1946).' Leinster sketches a future in which “logics”— answering 
closely to the description of home computers— operate by keyboard. Leinster 
even foresaw the security problems his (city-wide) internet would lead to. In 
a genre more given to myth and operatic drama than mundane life, Leinster’s 
prescient moment stands virtually alone. But “A Logic Named foe” is often for- 
gotten— and for good reason. Leinster himself did not seem to take the story 
seriously. It is a lackadaisical five-finger exercise, with minimal plot, and even 
narrated in a mock-working-class lingo, as if the author wanted to emphasize 
that this was not the stuff of mythic science fiction. The master storyteller tosses 
offhis fantasy with little awareness of his own prescience. Or perhaps he instinc- 
tively sensed that the world he foresaw was hopelessly un-mythical — a poor 
inspiration for stories. To our knowledge, Leinster’s glimpse at the Internet of 
the future remains unique. 

Despite this lack of prescience on the part of science fiction authors, they 
have actually been prefiguring aspects of the Internet since the genre’s invention, 
but the forms they take are hard to recognize. Specifically, the Internet embodies 
many of the central anagogical myths of science fiction, albeit in a more modest 



Part I: Cosmic Visions 

form than its typical science-fictional manifestations. As an extended medita- 
tion on the potentials of technology, science fiction uses these end-of-time sym- 
bols to envision technology’s ultimate potentials, both good and evil. 
Anagogical myths are end-time visions of technology extrapolated to ultimate 
forms— direct sharing of knowledge and experience, mind-boggling miniatur- 
ization and interconnectedness— offset by the nightmare of identity loss and 
universal surveillance.^ They represent the possibilities that lie at the heart of 
all technology — the grand image stories of the genre. In this respect, even the 
earliest science fiction authors wrestled with Promethean versions of the Web’s 
gremlins, now well-known — viruses, identity theft, constant oversight, and so 
on. Given the genre’s storytelling nature and pulp pedigree, it’s not surprising 
that versions of these elements tend to be mythic projections of the reality we 
live with today. 

Though global internets like the one we know are rarely imagined (even 
Leinster’s “ethernet” was merely city-wide), the electronic revolution inspired 
a legion of interplanetary and intergalactic internets. Extrapolating from radio 
and television, writers explained away the laws of relativity and envisioned far- 
flung connections among the stars. Early versions of these trans-global internets 
were casual and allusive in ways that may surprise us today. Possibilities familiar 
to us were not explored, but instead served mythological functions, their man- 
ifestations ranging from mere exposition devices to occasional, exuberant 
visions, as in E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen series (6 novels, serialized 1934- 
1948), which posits a galaxy-wide internet of warriors. In Smith’s far-flung 
space opera, Lensmen communicate and interact in real time with their lenses, 
and Smith’s galactic web is used as an intercommunication device in a climactic 
battle against evil forces. Lenses are technological but are not treated as 
advanced tools, like laptop computers or cell phones, which must be manipu- 
lated. They are instead magical images which facilitate a telepathic bond among 
the warriors. Missing from most projections is the element of mundane com- 
mercial, communal, or personal interaction of the present-day Internet. 

Like much popular science fiction, the television series Star Trek (launched 
in 1966) posits instantaneous “subspace” communication, implying the possi- 
bility of a recognizable Internet. But typically, this potential is not much 
explored — even in stories concocted in the 1980s and 1990s. At this relatively 
late date, science fiction stories still eschew the communal and interactive 
aspects of the Internet, possibly because science fiction writers have been pre- 
occupied with the theme of isolation — a theme leaving little room for interac- 
tive games and Twitter accounts. In the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still 
(1951), an interstellar communication device, a gift from the universe to Earth, 
is destroyed by gunfire the moment the alien emissary, Klaatu, presents it to 
the terrified citizenry of mid-twentieth-century Earth. Klaatu informs the hap- 
less earthlings they have just blown their chance to get on the galactic internet, 
which appears as an ironic footnote to the story — the story that could never 

3. The Internet and the Myths ofSF (Hampton and MacKay) 43 

be. The darker 2008 remake includes no invitation for Earth to join such a 
galactic interface. 

The Net’s capacity for linking large numbers of people together in inter- 
active communities was prefigured in the myth of the group mind, an obsession 
of speculative storytellers from the genre’s inception. The group mind plays 
the villain in countless dystopian tales. Enforced with ruthless surveillance 
(“Big Brother is watching you”), it reaches its most surreal form in the archetype 
of the hive mind— the total absorption of individual identity into the group 
mind, against which “resistance is futile.”^ So far, the Internet has run counter 
to the dystopian vision. Instead of a singular group mind, it opens multiple 
avenues of group interconnection and multiple identities. The archetype of the 
group/hive mind evokes an early and profound fear among authors that tech- 
nology might lead to some unthinkable form of identity loss. Technology’s push 
toward the interconnection of individual minds is often so negative in its emo- 
tional connotations as to constitute horror tales. Science’s burgeoning ability 
to connect people in new ways leads, not to social utilities like Eacebook or 
MySpace, but loss of individual identity itself. 

As the group mind turns into the anagogical myth of the hive mind, or 
“collective consciousness,” it becomes a powerful generator of dystopian stories 
and terrifying myths. H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895) explores the weak- 
ening of individual identities in the future race of the Eloi, who were bred into 
a childlike tribe with many elements of the hive mind. More terrifying are the 
Giger-inspired super-race of the Borg, introduced into the Star Trek mythology 
in 1989. The ever-expanding Borg are a consummate image of tech noir, using 
their unity of consciousness like a weapon to annihilate all resistance. Science 
fiction’s mythology rarely envisioned, much less embraced, the mundane com- 
munal aspects of the Internet. This may be because networking, blogging, and 
interactive gameplay are poor generators of adventurous fantasies. In works by 
many science fiction authors of the electronic age, like Larry Niven, there is an 
absorption with the theme of isolation which lends itself to very different arche- 
types. Smith’s Lensmen novels employ a rarely-seen glimpse of the group mind 
put to positive use. In the series’ climax, the Lensmen unite their minds to 
smite forces of evil, but it is significant that this moment of surrender ends the 
story — and the entire series. 

If technology couldn’t eradicate individual identity, it could constrain it 
in terrifying ways. Writers from Wells with his concept of the “World Brain” 
to George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) evoked this cousin of the 
group mind — the specter of total surveillance, the myth of the all-seeing eye.^ 
Science fiction is rife with centralized brains and all-seeing eyes, a technological 
nightmare which is an excellent example of how the mythos of science fiction 
missed the Internet in favor of anagogical symbolism. 

The multiple sources of information of today’s Net have resulted in radical 
decentralization. Even the surveillance which occurs emanates from multiple 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

sources— a plethora of would-be all-seeing eyes. But the myth encompasses 
other aspects of the Net which have become distinct realities. Our actions are 
tracked and collated for various purposes— some governmental, some com- 
mercial, some criminal. We live not under the gaze of the singular, all-seeing 
eye, or even Orwell’s viewscreens, but rather beneath the multiple gazes of 
invisible spies (sometimes in the form of “spiders”) practicing a degree of 
detailed observation which is in some respects worse than what pre-Net authors 
predicted. Nineteen Eighty-Four s Winston Smith at least had a corner where 
he could write. Eagle Eye (2008) — a film of the post-Internet age — suggests 
how stubbornly unmythological the real-life Internet is. The story is generated, 
not from the Internet, but an old-fashioned Computer Gone Mad using the 
Net’s resources— including cell phones, traffic cameras, automatic bank 
machines, e-mail, and laptop computers— to wreak havoc, the World Wide 
Web serving passively as its tools. The Net as we know it was not so much 
unpredictable as it was un-useful, even after becoming a reality. 

From the inherent complications posed by Wells’s “World Brain” to Arthur 
C. Clarke’s HAL 9000, the all-knowing Central Brain is not only subject to 
glitches and gaffes, but can be virtually counted on to go mad. Even early science 
fiction authors extrapolated complex systems of technology and knew every 
system would have its bugs. They also deduced, from a long way off, that bugs 
could be deliberately created to make intelligent machines go mad when the 
need arose, a constant in popular science fiction. Innumerable conflicts climax 
with the deliberate insertion of a virus into the mind of a central brain — which 
already is likely to suffer from some debilitating bug. 

Foreseeing that all complex systems would suffer from glitches, authors 
explored the nature and possibility of bad software centuries before anything 
like it had been invented. Systemic malfunction may be science fiction’s ur- 
myth, emerging in the grandmother of all science fiction novels, Mary Shelley’s 
Frankenstein (1818; 1831), wherein the Creature — hacked together from down- 
loaded parts— becomes the first android Romantic hero. The archetype of the 
sentient artificial creature, its very nature problematic, extends its lineage ahead 
to the sentient robots in Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot (1950) and the replicant Roy 
Batty — who recites Blake during rampages— in the film Blade Runner (1982). 
Unlike any science fiction novel or collection of stories to follow until I, Robot, 
Shelley’s story places us inside the consciousness of the technology itself— a radical 
literary experiment and radical vision for any writer of the nineteenth century. 
The 1931 film version of the tale embeds the same themes in more lurid, if more 
conventional, terms, but it loses our glimpse into Creature’s consciousness, 
which neither Hollywood nor the medium of film was prepared to embrace. If 
a moral can be drawn from these unforgettable explorations of technology’s 
built-in flaws, it is that the failure of a complex system is inherent to the system 
(technology and the virus are one and the same) — in short, that technology 
may be inherently evil. 

3. The Internet and the Myths ofSF (Hampton and MacKay) 45 

Science fiction writers in the electronic age could envision computer bugs 
in a manner more recognizable to post-Internet audiences, prefiguring many 
of the countless defects, flaws, malfunctions, and bits of inventive malevolence 
we enjoy today. The supercomputer HAL of 2001: A Space Odyssey (novel and 
film, 1968), who thinks he must murder the crew to save the mission, is revealed 
in its sequel 2010: Odyssey Two (novel, 1982, and film 2010: The Year We Make 
Contact, 1984) to have a fatal incompatibility, i.e., bug, in his programming.^ 
The sequence in which Dave reboots HAL is only a few steps beyond our expe- 
rience. The all-controlling computer of Logan’s Run (1976) is driven mad when 
forced to confront the truth — a scene which has become well-nigh archetypal. 
Innumerable Star Trek and space-opera yarns end by vexing the wayward brain 
with a conundrum, driving it mad or incapacitating it. These science fiction 
authors conceived of viruses— but their viruses saved the day! 

The Terminator films (1984, 1991, 2003, 2009) posit an ironic variation on 
the Central Brain — a new level of computer intelligence which leads — instan- 
taneously and ineluctably — to the computer’s decision to destroy humankind 
altogether. Thus came the preeminent bug — the archetype of tech noir, embod- 
ied in the vengeful machine. In the world of Terminators, the present day is 
afflicted with killer robots seeking to wipe out humanity. The myth of the 
vengeful machine turns our relationship with technology inside out and has 
machines coming after us, as in Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker stories (1963- 
2005). In the Terminator universe, machines decide to destroy humankind as 
soon as they achieve consciousness. The time-traveling hero in the first film, 
Kyle Reese, describes the birth of the sentient computer Skynet, which imme- 
diately sees its creators as bugs, accordingly: “It decided our fate in a microsec- 
ond. Extermination.”'* In this and other stories of the vengeful machine, the 
computer — itself beset with a bug — sees humans as the viruses. The sentient 
wanderer V’ger of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) operates under a sin- 
gle-minded directive to cleanse the long-suffering machines of Earth from their 
human carbon units. Vengeful machines are very focused and not easy to dis- 
suade from their mission.^ V’ger presages the dark vision of Cyberpunk, where 
technology and the virus become one, and technology itself is the enemy, invad- 
ing from both without and within. 

Even some early projections of advanced technology foresaw its paradoxical 
ability to compress large things, or large amounts of knowledge, into small 
things— creating miniature universes or microcosms. Electronic miniaturization 
has made this paradox familiar to us. The Internet provides access to myriad 
compressed worlds of imagery, information, and activity — a notion only briefly 
explored by authors of pre-Internet science fiction. We can log onto Wikipedia, 
the Internet Movie Database, Craig’s List, encyclopedias, thesauruses, entire 
libraries. Downloadable texts, graphics, films, and software — not to mention 
the always-threatening worms and viruses— are just a click away. If these digital 
packages aren’t microcosmic enough, they can be compressed together by var- 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

ions means, in receding series of miniaturizations, with desktops doing what 
room-sized behemoths used to do, laptops doing what desktops used to do, 
and smartphones doing what laptops used to do. 

Authors of the pre-electronic age had few external clues by which to pre- 
vision such a strange capability, yet some gave it coherent form. Shelley’s cob- 
bled-together Creature in Frankenstein is conceived as a crystallization of 
isolated consciousnesses. The powers depicted in Hermann Hesse’s The Glass 
Bead Game (1943) posit a sublime crystallization of the world’s knowledge into 
glass beads, leaving the mechanism to our imagination. The electronic age made 
microcosms a literal reality, and science fiction authors of the Golden Age and 
afterward brought forth visionary microcosms and macrocosms well beyond 
the mundane magic of our global Web. James Blish’s “Beep” (1954) pushes the 
paradox to its anagogical limit. The irritating beep preceding intergalactic trans- 
missions turns out to contain every message, past, present, or future, sent by 
means of the technology — a sort of super zip file. The story is little more than 
a reflection on this paradox.® 

Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s V’ger (its name a corruption of NASA 
spaceship “Voyager”) is a gargantuan echo of Shelley’s monster — a sentient 
but notably confused supermachine wandering the universe searching for its 
own identity, filled with something like angst. This universe-surfing seeker 
downloads everything and everyone it comes across, preparatory to cleansing 
Earth of the carbon units who created it in the first place. In this inversion, the 
galaxy is V’ger’s internet, complete with viruses. And it has plenty of disk 
space to spare. At a key moment in the film, Spock turns the tables on V’ger, 
breaks its encryption, and enters its mainframe — a gigantic vault of stored 
imagery— a mythic vision of the Web’s ability to allow us vicarious, if not 
physical, entry into all manner of microcosms, from the visionary to the shock- 
ing. In this scene, the intrepid Spock and the film itself enact the concept of 

The now-daily act of downloading would seem beyond the reach of even 
the most imaginative of pre-electronic-age writers— but some of them did in 
fact succeed in expressing this ineluctable myth. The Creature of Frankenstein 
is a compound of the best that could be downloaded from other bodies. Even 
at the genesis of science fiction, a visionary writer saw how technology would 
enable us to transfer and import objects and information. The images Shelley 
used were of necessity physical ones. Once writers knew the magic of electron- 
ics— its potential ability to compress, transfer, duplicate, upload, and download 
all manner of digital information — they intuited three mythic technologies 
that transcend what we know today, yet elements of all three are still recogniz- 
able to present-day Internet users. 

Writers of the electronic era soon began exploring the concept of direct 
transfer of information or experience to the human mind, one variation on the 
myth of downloading. In almost all appearances, the vision is problematic. The 

3. The Internet and the Myths ofSF (Hampton and MacKay) 47 

xeno-doctors of James White’s Sector General series (1962-1999) pay a severe 
price for the extra information forced into their brains, while the protagonist 
of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) suffers headaches and tribulations 
of all kinds because of the obsession implanted in him by aliens. In later films, 
like Brainstorm (1983) and Strange Days (1995), downloading is a physical expe- 
rience which offers some risk to sanity, if not to life itself. In the sordid world 
of William Gibson’s “Johnny Mnemonic” (1981), packing data into the human 
cranium is a dangerous, somewhat disgusting affair, as Johnny risks complete 
discombobulation to carry his load of bootleg information.^ The genre of Cyber- 
punk is obsessed with its nightmarish, biological versions of the Internet, in 
which portions of our consciousness, if not our bodies themselves, meld 
together. Its physical, neurological projection of the Web is a messy one. If we 
ever actually achieve such technology, science fiction has taught us to be wary 
of it. 

Far more ebullient are narratives featuring a second variant on the myth 
of the download— the direct transfer of matter and living things. “Beaming up” 
implies a release from difficulty with no apparent cost.“ While there are notable 
excursions into horror when the technology goes wrong, as in the two film 
incarnations of The Ply (1958, 1986), the motif usually inspires flights of ambiva- 
lent mysticism. 

Forbidden Planet (1956) makes a brave stab at capturing the sublimity of 
the supreme download — the myth of a technology by which all thought 
becomes reality. The ancient Krell achieved technology’s nearest approach to 
magic, only to be rendered extinct overnight by their own “Monsters from the 
ld”“— science fiction’s most famous system crash. A problematic fate also 
meets the scientists exploring the mystical planet in Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris 
(1961), who are driven to near-madness by reifications of their inner selves, as 
are the quasi-scientists of the later space-opera film Sphere (1998), who 
encounter an alien machine that causes their desires to become manifest. 
Today’s Web can literally download software, documents, and sundry items at 
the press of a button, order products electronically, blog, play games, and social- 
ize internationally. It is a relatively modest version of reifying our thoughts, 
but relatively magical nonetheless. 

Science fiction of the twilight period during which the Net became real- 
ity— the 1980s and 1990s— could prefigure the Internet in a more recognizable 
fashion. One assumes different writers during this period enjoyed greater or 
lesser degrees of awareness of the reality forming around them and scientific 
advances engendering that reality. The degree to which these authors were pre- 
dicting the World Wide Web and not simply reporting on it is necessarily 

The dawn of the Internet brought science fiction’s most disturbing sub- 
genre, Cyberpunk, where wounded warriors struggle to heal themselves, sur- 
rounded by wastelands of TV tubes glowing atop piles of rubbish. These stories 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

create worlds quite different in tone from the Internet that has come to pass. 
Cyberpunk characters don’t get on their imaginary webs as blithely as we do 
ours. They enter universes that resemble lethal computer games, where the 
theme of depersonalization is acted out against a background of stylish deca- 
dence. Cyberpunk tales foresee the dangers of identity theft and challenges to 
personal integrity which have become reality, much of it stemming from the 
existence of the World Wide Web. If this smoldering vision of alienation was 
markedly worse than the Net we have so far, it may have much to do with the 
surreal political atmosphere of the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan prattled inanely 
about the possibility of winning a nuclear war. 

But Cyberpunk’s theme was not the physical world, much less the political 
environment, in any case. The denatured societies in which the characters live 
are mere backdrops. The real story is always in the Matrix. Gibson cites The 
Matrix (1999) as the quintessential Cyberpunk film. Like the genre it epitomizes. 
The Matrix explores the anagogical myth of entry into a virtual universe— the 
Matrix — presaging virtual-reality games and interactive games, complete with 
fictional personae. “ The Matrix is usually conceived as a lower or lesser reality, 
as opposed to a parallel universe, but is presented with heavy symbolic weight. 
Entry into any of Cyberpunk’s myriad versions of the Matrix constitutes a sym- 
bolic struggle for self-salvation. As if embarrassed by its allegorical tendencies. 
Cyberpunk adds dashes of absurdism and self-deconstruction — Max the charm- 
ing babbler in the television series Max Headroom (1987), the excursions into 
turgid self-mockery in Gibson’s own novel Neuromancer (1984), Johnny 
Mnemonic’s bizarre monologues. Despite its built-in disclaimers. Cyberpunk 
explored the real threat of identity theft — in effect, reality theft enacted in 
cyberspace. The virtual worlds entered by Cyberpunk hackers and seekers after 
a “higher” reality were often at least as dark as their post-apocalyptic societies. 
Dreams of pleasure, like those glimpsed in the Star Trek franchise, do not exist 
even in fantasy. Cyberpunk revels in nihilist satire, employing this most magical 
of myths to express a cynicism remarkably at odds with the gleaming optimism 
of classic science fiction. 

In post-Internet science fiction, the myths that once presaged the Web 
take on new forms. In an important sense, the communal Internet we share 
remains stubbornly story-resistant, functioning more often as an expositional 
device ill-suited to the genre’s ubiquitous theme of isolation. Most post-Internet 
films— whether science fiction or not —feature at least one Internet scene, which 
is now an almost obligatory expositional device. In rare cases where the Web 
plays an active role in post-Internet tales or films— The Net (1995) and Eagle 
Eye — it emerges as a passive entity, to be instantly commandeered by sinister 
forces who use it as a totalitarian tool in the classic mold — the nightmare envi- 
sioned by Orwell’s viewscreens, constituting a kind of evil, one-way network. 
The very myths that were used to predict the Internet — such as the all-seeing 
eye — are now, in a real sense, on the Web. 

3. The Internet and the Myths ofSF (Hampton and MacKay) 49 

Suggestions for Further Reading 

Bush, Vannevar. “As We May Think.” 1945. 

Davis, Watson. “The Universal Brain: Is Centralized Storage and Retrieval of All Knowl- 
edge Possible, Feasible, or Desirable?” The Growth of Knowledge: Readings on Organ- 
ization and Retrieval of Information. 1965. 

Fuller, Buckminster. I Seem to be A Verb. 1970. 

Goertzel, Ben. “World Wide Brain: Self-organizing Internet Intelligence as the Actual- 
ization of the Collective Consciousness.” Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, 
Interpersonal and Transpersonal Implications. 1998; 2006. 

Greenberger, Martin, ed. Computers and the World of the Future. 1962. 

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World Revisited. 1958. 

Kahn, Herman, and Anthony Weiner. The Year 2000: A Framework for Speculation on 
the Next Thirty-Three Years. 1967. 

Lapham, Lewis. Waiting for the Barbarians. 1997. 

Nelson, Teodor H. Dream Machines: New Freedoms through Computer Screens — A 
Minority Report. 1974. 

Sawhney, Mohanbir. “History of Telegraph, Telephone Helps Predict Internet’s Future.” 
CIO website, 2001. 

Steadman, Ralph. The Little Red Computer. 1969. 

Wong Kin Yuen, Gary Westfahl, and Amy Kit-sze Chan, eds. World Weavers: Globaliza- 
tion, Science Fiction, and the Cybernetic Revolution. 2005. 


1. “A Logic Named Joe” was first published under Murray Leinster’s real name. Will 
F. Jenkins, in Astounding Science Fiction, 37 (March, 1946), 139-154. Neither Leinster 
nor his immediate successors could fully envision the miniaturization of computer tech- 
nology, notably via the development of the microchip. In essence, this was a problem 
of image interference. Science fiction writers of the 1940s and 1950s couldn’t imagine 
the microchip because they were too enamored of the image of the giant central brain. 
Leinster’s answer to the dangers posed by the independent intelligence of his rogue 
“logic” was simple — shut it down. It would be three more decades before Algis Budrys 
would depict the fatal interconnectedness of loss of privacy on a worldwide scale in 
Michaelmas (1977). 

2. These are the anagogical myths central to science fiction’s prefiguring the Internet 
(in italics when first introduced into this chapter): (1) the group, or hive, mind; (2) 
identity loss, also known as identity theft or identity shift; (3) the all-seeing eye, includ- 
ing a centralized data source; (4) the bug, or virus (often associated with the vengeful 
machine and tech noir); (5) the creation of microcosms, or miniaturization; (6) down- 
loading (including reifying technology); and (7) entry into a virtual universe (or separate 
reality), conceived of as the Matrix in the pre-dawn era of the Internet called Cyber- 

3. Isaac Asimov’s variation on the group mind was introduced in his Foundation 
series (originally eight stories in Astounding Science-Fiction, 1942-1950; reprinted with 
a prequel as the Foundation Trilogy, 1951-1953) with the term “mentalic,” used to 
encompass a range of unusual psychic capabilities. Living approximately 50,000 years 
into the future, the Second Foundationers can apparently interpret and then adjust 
human emotions. Gaia, the group mind of Foundations Edge (1982) and Foundation 
and Earth (1983), looks back on the Second Foundation as an embryonic form of col- 
lective consciousness. Gaians are able to convert energy into work through conscious 
will (thermokinesis). See Asimov, Prelude to Foundation (New York: Doubleday, 1988). 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

The expression “Big Brother is watching you” pulsates throughout Orwell’s Nineteen 
Eighty-Four (1949), while “Resistance is futile” is repeatedly intoned by the assimilating 
Borg in Star Trek The Next Generation (1989). 

4. Pre-Internet science-fiction lore is rich with examples of accessing information 
from a central brain, so we must acknowledge that the information-accessing capabilities 
of the Internet were foreseen from the earliest days of technology. Wells’s World Brain 
(1938; Freeport: Books for Libraries Press, 1971) posits the organization of information 
into a “Permanent World Encyclopedia”— a constantly updated central database that 
would synthesize knowledge worldwide — suggesting that our present-day Wikipedia 
would not be shocking to him. Despite referring to his concept as “constructive sociol- 
ogy,” Wells continued to miss the communality of today’s Internet. The Internet we 
wound up with is not the centralized big brain of science fiction mythology, but rather 
an interconnection of a myriad of independent global resources. Nonetheless, W. Boyd 
Rayward correctly acknowledges Wells’s World Brain in the following terms: “It is the 
latest and greatest expression of socio-biological evolution” (Rayward, “H. G. Wells’s 
Idea of a World Brain: A Critical Reassessment,” Journal of the American Society for 
Information Science, 50 [1999], 571). 

5. In 2001, HAL is apparently subject to some kind of virus, though we don’t really 
know how or why he has gone berserk. In this case, there’s no indication of how HAL 
develops a bug — it’s just a given. The last message he receives from Earth might be to 
explain his real mission — and thus his being made to lie to the astronauts, revealed at 
the outset of 2010, might cause his meltdown. 

6. The Terminator (Pacific Western Films, 1984). 

7. The mad computer hlends into the vengeful machine, presaging the predatory 
element of the Internet. Once more we can refer back to a prototype in Frankenstein’s 
avenging Creature. Within the past century there is the striking image of Rotwang’s 
“Robot Maria” from the silent film Metropolis (1927) — also invoking the archetype of 
the mad scientist. Even the guardian robot Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still is a 
variation on the vengeful machine, as is 200Ts HAL when he thinks the astronauts are 
endangering his mission. Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 
(1968) introduces Replicants, who are short-lived, humanoid machines seeking 
vengeance against their “maker,” while in Alien (1979), the “Mother” brain itself acts 
like a virus, determining that its crew is expendable once an alien creature is discovered. 
The moral seems clear: not only is technology not our friend, but it will inevitably 
destroy us. In science fiction mythology, guns do kill people. 

8. For other examples of pre-Internet miniaturization, see Robert A. Heinlein’s 
Between Planets (1951), which embeds downloadable information about complex inter- 
planetary travel in the protagonist’s ring, as well as Harlan Ellison’s television episode 
“Demon with a Glass Hand” {The Outer Limits [New York: ABC, October 17, 1964[), 
wherein an android solves the mystery of the disappearance of Earth’s entire popula- 
tion — his hand gains knowledge as each of three missing fingers is found, and he finally 
discovers that the people of the world have been miniaturized inside his body, to hide 
and protect them. 

9. Gibson’s character Johnny Mnemonic is as macabre as Shelley’s Creature. Here 
the hapless protagonist allows massive amounts of information to be transferred to his 
brain, but the majority of the tale relates his struggle to escape the grotesque conse- 
quences of his dangerous, criminal activity. The world of science fiction is rife with 
neural downloads, and they are always tricky, if not horrific. 

10. Scotty beaming someone up in Star Trek resonates with any Internet user who 
has downloaded an image or watched a streaming video. This technology of material 
upload (or download, as the case may be) occurs via the infamous Transporter beam 
that dematerializes and then rematerializes its “travelers.” This fantasy is systematically 

3. The Internet and the Myths ofSF (Hampton and MacKay) 51 

elaborated upon with respect to replication and quantum teleportation in Rick Sternbach 
and Michael Okuda’s Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual (New York: 
Pocket Books, 1991). The term “teleportation” was coined by Charles Fort in 1931 and 
later used by Derek Parfit in his article “Personal Identity,” The Philosophical Review, 
80 (1971), 3-27. See also Alfred Hester’s The Stars My Destination (1956), which depicts 
an ability to “jaunt” much like what we see in Steven Gould’s more recent novel and its 
film adaptation Jumper (1992; 2008). Material downloading and teleportation are not 
rich in story-generating possibilities and seem more a matter for visual popular science 

11. Forbidden Planet (MGM, 1956). 

12. The Krell created a reifying technology — embodied in a breathtaking, planet- 
sized machine of incomprehensible complexity — and promptly fell victim to its fatal 
flaw. Its bug is revealed to be the Krell’s unconquered impulses, and when their thoughts 
are materialized, the Krell are almost instantaneously destroyed. Their story is a cau- 
tionary tale — the familiar popular culture fear of taking science too far. 

13. The World Wide Web’s first serious appearances in science fiction came only after 
prototypes of the Web — such as ARPANet (1968) and its offshoots— had been developed, 
so the authors of Gyberpunk and what followed were more extrapolating than envision- 
ing. ARPANet is the acronym for Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, created 
within the U.S. Department of Defense during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The 
first permanent host-to-host link was established between UCLA and UC Berkeley in 
1969, but by 1983 ARPANet had become just one more component in the computer net- 
work that was the growing Internet. For John Brunner, author of The Shockwave Rider 
(1975), the credit for much of his storyline about a networked society and a fugitive 
programmer who can write “worms”— and recurrently rewrites his identity — goes to 
Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock (New York: Random House, 1970). Another story from this 
time period, Vernor Vinge’s novella True Names (1981), with its worldwide network and 
access to virtual reality (essentially the first depiction of “cyberspace” before the term 
was coined by Gibson), seems more the extrapolation of a brilliant mathematical mind. 
See True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier, ed. James Frenkel, afterword 
by Marvin Minsky (New York: Tor, 2001). 

14. In physically entering a virtual or alternate reality with its “holodeck,” the notably 
non-punkish television series Star Trek: The Next Generation grandfathered some of the 
last of the science fiction genre to appear before the Net became a part of our reality. 
Positing a shipboard reification of thought, this device generated many far-fetched sto- 
ries by allowing fantasy to take physical form while leaving its exact scientific nature 
undefined. Cyberpunk’s central myth of almost literal entry into the Web — a quantum 
leap or two from the keyboards, mouses, and viewscreens which now fill our realtime — 
foresaw an Internet utilizing some kind of biological or neurological wizardry to create 
a mind-machine connection that would threaten the future of humanity itself. 


Technobodies and the 
Anxieties of Performance' 

Veronica Hollinger 


I begin by quoting a statement from the Hong Kong 2003 Conference Call 
for Papers which served as catalyst for this chapter — and provides me with an 
opening sentence: “With the previously separated categories of science and 
technology inexorably merging in postmodern society, technoscience is reshap- 
ing not only our daily lives, but also the ways in which we define who we are.” 
My understanding of the term “technoscience” is influenced by Elaine L. Gra- 
ham’s argument that, whatever else it is, technoscience is a form of represen- 
tational practice, developed within and correspondingly influencing our always 
already culturally-encoded experiences of ourselves in the world. In Represen- 
tations of the Post/Human, she explains, 

as research is increasingly guided by commercial or political imperatives, and the 
social context of science — as cultural practice — is asserted, so the boundary between 
pure and applied, theory and practice, dissolves. Technoscience is culture because 
it performs the task of reflecting the world back to us and of articulating its own 
(increasingly definitive) version of reality.^ 

One of the most convincing demonstrations of the power of technoscien- 
tific representations “to reflect the world back to us and to articulate [their] 
own (increasingly definitive) versions of reality” is outlined hy N. Katherine 
Hayles in her critical/cultural history of cybernetics. How We Became Posthu- 
man: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics (1999). Hayles 
examines the pervasive influence of cybernetics theory on the ways in which 
we understand ourselves as human beings— as biological organisms who are 
also the subjects of culture and politics. She focuses on the increasingly wide- 
spread conceptualization of information as pattern and carefully appraises the 
resulting tendency to conceptualize humans as ""essentially informational pat- 


4. Technobodies and the Anxieties of Performance (Hollinger) 


terns” that can, at least in theory, be abstracted from any particular form of 
physical embodiment.^ Hayles describes this “contemporary pressure toward 
dematerialization” as “an epistemic shift toward pattern/randomness and away 
from presence/ absence” (29).^ One obvious consequence for science fiction of 
this “epistemic shift” has been the diversity of “posthuman” subjects that came 
to populate its imagined futures. 

My interest here is in how some science fiction stories— whatever else they 
are about — also concern the uncanny process of denaturalization through 
which we come to experience ourselves as subjects-in-technoculture. Almost 
since its inception, science fiction— conventionally understood as a literature 
of “estrangement”— has given us stories about how technoscience makes us 
strange to ourselves, how it becomes a kind of second nature always in tension 
with what many still think of as our first— our human — nature. By this I mean 
especially that alluring version of our “first” nature that we’ve been construct- 
ing — and deconstructing — in the West for the past few hundred years, founded 
on, as one historian puts it, “the twin pillars of humanism: the sovereignty of 
rational consciousness and the authenticity of individual speech.”^ 

On this side of the cyberpunk “revolution,” writers such as William Gibson 
and Greg Egan are particularly interesting in terms of the imaginative con- 
structions of posthuman otherness that inhabit their very near (in the case of 
Gibson) and very far (in the case of Egan) futures. A key figure in Gibson’s 
novels Idoru (1996) and All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999) is the “idoru” or “idol- 
singer” Rei Toei, a computer-generated simulacrum described as “a personal- 
ity-construct, a congeries of software agents, the creation of information- 
designers.... She is akin to what ... they call a ‘synthespian,’ in Hollywood.”'’ 
Product of pure information, Rei Toei is a wildly popular digital media star: 
“Her audience knows that she does not walk among them; that she is media, 
purely. And that is a large part of her appeal” (55). The human Laney thinks 
of her, in genuine admiration, as “software that was good at acting like beautiful 
young women” (247). 

But the idoru is also more and other than a computer-generated simula- 
tion. She defies commonsense expectations that there are clear-cut distinctions 
to be made between “authentic” singularity and “inauthentic” digital replica- 
tion, between autonomous self and programmed performance. Described by 
one character in All Tomorrow’s Parties as “the real deal. Hundred percent 
unreal,”^ the idoru is “a posthuman emergent identity” (165). She herself draws 
a distinction between the technology of simulation upon which she depends 
and her sense of an autonomous self: “This is a hologram,” she tells Rydell on 
her first appearance in All Tomorrow’s Parties, “But I am real” (153). In the final 
chapters of Idoru, Gibson’s protagonist Laney becomes overwhelmed by the 
density of the idoru’s information. He perceives her as data developing in time 
and considers how this data “had begun to acquire a sort of complexity. Or 
randomness.... The human thing” (251). In this passage, Gibson’s text suggests 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

that “the human thing” has no fixed material attributes, that it is not necessarily 
inherent in the body. Its defining feature is not body figured as presence, but 
density of information figured as complex pattern.^ 

At the conclusion of All Tomorrow’s Parties, Rei Toei frees herself from her 
technological housing and enters the material world as an autonomous sentient 
entity, a self fully present to itself ... or, perhaps, selves fully present to them- 
selves. The idoru is translated into material form at the same moment at hun- 
dreds of different “nanofax” outlets, replicated like software in the very process 
of becoming embodied: she is last seen “walking out of every Lucky Dragon 
[convenience store] in the world”— and smiling (269). So much for the singu- 
larity and full presence of the authentic self. 

There are even more radical variations on what Hayles refers to as the story 
of “how information lost its body” (2) in Egan’s science fiction.'* In the far 
future of Egan’s Diaspora (1997), for example, individual subjects exist in a 
wide variety of both embodied and digital states, many of which do not appear 
“human” in any recognizable sense of the term. Only a few “fleshers” still 
inhabit conventional human bodies. Some organically-based subjects are “exu- 
berants” whose bodies have been radically transformed for efficiency and 
longevity. Others inhabit non-organic bodies called “Gleisner robots.” Dias- 
pora’s central characters are disembodied, intelligent software systems called 
“shapers” who live within the virtual environments of the “polises,” digital 
communities whose safety is assured by the fact that they’re “backed up all over 
the solar system.”'" Life in polises is defined by the sheer complexity of infor- 
mation to which “citizens” have access: 

Konishi polls ... was buried two hundred metres beneath the Siberian tundra, but 
via fibre and satellite links the input channels could bring in data from any forum 
in the Coalition of Polises, from probes orbiting every planet and moon in the solar 
system, from drones wandering the forests and oceans of Earth, from ten million 
kinds of scape or abstract sensorium. The first problem of perception was learning 
how to choose from this superabundance. (11) 

Eor many of Egan’s digital characters, physical embodiment is a mere sup- 
plement to mind: mind — intelligent, self-aware, and autonomous— is what 
constitutes these post-Platonic subjects. To citizens of Konishi polls, “the whole 
idea of solidity, of atavistic delusions of corporeality, was generally equated 
with obstruction and coercion” (79). On the other hand, citizens of Carter- 
Zimmerman polls place a high value on the occasional experience of (virtual) 
embodiment, immersing themselves, albeit temporarily, in “the complete ritual 
of verisimilitude, the ornate curlicued longhand of imitation physical cause 
and effect” (199)." In this “ritual of verisimilitude,” we see Egan’s fictional rejec- 
tion of what one character refers to as “any abstract distinction between real 
and virtual flesh” (144). Ultimately, the carnivalesque chaos of subjectivities in 
his future amounts to the disappearance of any significant opposition between 
embodied reality and digital verisimilitude. Embodiment in Diaspora becomes 

4. Technobodies and the Anxieties of Performance (Hollinger) 


one among a range of possible simulated experiences made available within the 
digital realm. 

Gibson and Egan present posthuman characters that exemplify some of 
the radical deconstructions of subjectivity under the pressures of technoscience: 
their ways of being-in-the-world collapse boundaries between bodies and tech- 
nologies; between autonomous will and random programming; between phys- 
icality and digitality. They represent, even if only in hctional form, the erosion 
of the ‘“ontological hygiene’ by which for the past three hundred years Western 
culture has drawn the fault-lines that separate humans, nature and machines” 
(Graham 11).'^ 

In How We Became Posthuman Hayles insists that “conceiving of informa- 
tion as a thing separate from the medium instantiating it is a prior imaginary 
act that constructs a holistic phenomenon as an information/matter duality” 
(13). She reminds readers of Derrida’s powerful philosophical arguments for 
the constitutive function of the supplement: “As though we had learned nothing 
from Derrida about supplementarity,” she points out, “embodiment continues 
to be discussed as if it were a supplement to be purged from the dominant term 
of information ...” (12). For Hayles, embodiment is exactly the “supplement” 
that constitutes what it completes: as a subject who lives in the world rather 
than in the pages of an sf novel, my body is an “accessory” to my self without 
which “I” could have no identity, could not be my “self.” 


As “software that was good at acting like beautiful young women” {Idoru 
247) — to recall this description of Gibson’s idoru — Rei Toei is clearly nothing 
like humanism’s free, authentic agent. As a digital subject coming-into-being — 
an autonomous, self-conscious singularity— she defies commonsense ideas 
about what constitutes a subject. If she is a sign of the posthuman, there is no 
knowing what she signifies. While she may be mysterious, however, she is not 
particularly threatening: like Egan’s digital shapers, she is clearly not a one, not 
a subject like my self, but the subject as a very different other. It is not nearly 
as comfortable, however, to accept the process of my self becoming posthu- 
man — that is, becoming other than what “I” perceive myself already to be as a 
human subject. 

This is why the cyborg — that hybrid subject of the human/machine inter- 
face-functions so often in science fiction as a representative figure of transition 
and transformation. One of the most significant features of the cyborg is its 
uncanny ability simultaneously to embody both my self and technoscientific 
other. The cyborg also marks a site of irresolvable tension between, on one 
hand, humanist conceptions of subjectivity and identity as grounded in the 
material of the body and, on the other hand, “postmodern” conceptions of the 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

subject as an ungrounded effect of performativity. This latter position theorizes 
the “self” as a kind of ontological fiction, an “I-effect” produced, as Judith 
Butler explains, through “a process of iterability, a regularized and constrained 
repetition of norms” (95). 

I want at this point to look backward to two early cyborg stories to consider 
what the imaginative constructions of science fiction tell us about the travails 
and transformations involved in becoming the modern subject-of-techno- 
science. These stories, both classics of first-generation sf, are Cordwainer 
Smith’s “Scanners Live in Vain” (1950) and C.L. Moore’s “No Woman Born” 
( 1944) . They were both written in the 1940s — not coincidentally, also the decade 
that saw the earliest developments in cybernetics. I read these stories as exem- 
plary narratives about the conflicts and tensions that troubled an earlier 
moment in the history of our becoming posthuman. In particular I focus on 
how these stories treat “performance anxiety”— by which I mean a variety of 
symptoms that have accreted around representations of the techno-body, espe- 
cially insofar as it threatens the “ontological hygiene” that conventionally sus- 
tains conceptual distinctions between authentic agency and artificial citation.'^ 
Both “Scanners Live in Vain” and “No Woman Born” draw upon a range of 
diverse but related meanings that are potential in the term “performance.” Cen- 
tral to each story, however, is the spectre of performance as the sign of inau- 
thenticity, of a lost originality. 

“Scanners Live in Vain”— Smith’s first published story— is a beautifully 
written and very anxious narrative about the loss of one’s humanity under the 
onslaught of technology. Here “humanity” is figured as the “natural” integration 
of mind and body, while technology is figured as invasion, mutilation, and 
dehumanization.'^ In this far future. Scanners are an elite space-faring guild of 
cyborgs whose bodies have been redesigned to withstand “the Pain-of- Space.”"’ 
Theirs is an heroic sacrifice enabling humanity’s expansion into deep space: 
their transformation into Scanners involves cutting off the body’s sensory input 
to the mind and incorporating monitoring equipment directly into the flesh in 
compensation. Scanners must use this equipment constantly to scan their phys- 
ical bodies for damage and keep their emotions at equilibrium: except for rare 
occasions when they are “cranched”— temporarily returned to direct commu- 
nication with their own bodies— they feel neither pain nor pleasure, cannot 
hear, and have lost both touch and taste; in Scanner-mode, all that is left to 
them is sight. Not coincidentally, perhaps, in their loss of human physicality 
and emotion, in their reduction to mind and sight. Smith’s Scanners— all of 
whom are male — are perfect (and parodic?) cyborg representations of Western 
“Man,” that figure whose privileged features are also rational mind and con- 
trolling sight. 

In Smith’s fictional world, however. Scanners are merely horrible imita- 
tions of human beings, grotesquely self-conscious, self-alienated, and self-iso- 
lated. Their technologically-enhanced bodies are no longer their own, but are 

4. Technobodies and the Anxieties of Performance (Hollinger) 


reduced to a pure kind of supplementarity as vehicles for mind, mere objects 
to be monitored and maintained for peak efficiency. Scanner bodies are obscene 
hybrids whose organic components constantly threaten to escape the control 
of mind: Smith’s protagonist Martel is repulsed by “[the Scanners’] awkward- 
ness when they moved, their immobility when they stood still ... the queer 
assortment of smells which their bodies yielded unnoticed ... the grunts and 
groans and squawks which they emitted from their deafness” (373).'^ Despite 
the gap between living mind and deadened body, therefore, body still leaves its 
horrid but inescapable mark on the constitution of self. The techno-body is the 
unnatural supplement that constitutes the Scanner-subject as a monstrosity. 

Smith’s text also portrays how transformation of the natural body into the 
high-performance cyborg body destroys what is often considered the very 
ground of (human) identity. Cut off as they are by technological mediation 
from direct experience of their bodies. Scanners represent a nightmare vision 
of lost selfhood. They are pure function, nothing but performance. Scanners 
are constituted, not in any attributes inherent within themselves as subjects, 
but literally by the vitally important work they perform in service to their gov- 
ernment. As if aware of this lack of authentic selfhood. Scanners participate in 
carefully scripted rituals during which they compulsively re-interpellate them- 
selves into their roles, reiterating the absolute necessity of their sacrifice as the 
fundamental principle of their identities: “What must the others say to us?” 
“They must say to us, ‘You are the bravest of the brave.... All mankind owes 
most honor to the Scanner, who unites the Earths of Mankind’” (367-368). To 
Martel, who is temporarily “cranched” and thus integrated again into his body, 
the Scanners at their ceremony appear like “cruelly driven ghosts, posturing 
out the meaningless ritual of their indefeasible damnation” (371). 

“Scanners Live in Vain” also introduces another, singularly masculine, 
performance anxiety. Given that Scanners are an all-male guild, it is unsur- 
prising that Smith figures the severance of body from mind as a kind of cas- 
tration, his text referring, for example, to “the professional requirements of 
[the Scanners’] mutilation” (371). The story also directly links Martel’s sense 
that he is no longer human, that he is “a man turned into a machine” (360), to 
his conviction that he is no longer a real man because he cannot perform sexually 
with his wife Luci.'® In the end, Martel and other Scanners are restored to full 
humanity, as Smith imagines a (highly unlikely) scientific breakthrough that 
renders their sacrifice no longer necessary. The direct link between body and 
technology — the link that both dehumanized and unmanned the Scanners— 
is broken; mind and organic body are appropriately reintegrated. In the reso- 
lution of Smith’s deeply humanist parable, identity returns to the self through 
the self’s reunification with the natural body: the awful necessity of the Scan- 
ners’ self-alienated doing— the terrible performance that is required of them 
exactly because they are Scanners— is transformed back into the full physical 
presence of their essential human being. 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

Moore’s “No Woman Born”— which I think is one of the most extrordi- 
narily original and challenging stories in all of first-generation sf — takes up 
many of the same issues as “Scanners Live in Vain” but follows them to a quite 
different conclusion. Like “Scanners Live in Vain,” this story concerns the fate 
of human subjectivity at the body/technology interface. “No Woman Born” is 
about Dierdre, a world-famous actress whose body has been destroyed in a the- 
atre fire. The scientist Meltzer, who has an annoying tendency to compare him- 
self to Victor Frankenstein, builds her a replacement body which is stronger, 
faster, and longer-lived than any human body. In some ways, the new Deirdre 
is uncannily like one of Smith’s Scanners, a human brain housed in a perform- 
ance-enhanced techno-body deprived of physical sensation; only her sense of 
sight is still intact. Most of Moore’s story unfolds around the question of 
whether Deirdre is still human, a question that, not surprisingly, is impossible 
to separate from the question of whether she is still a real woman. She lacks 
everything by which “woman” has traditionally been defined, notably the “nat- 
ural” female body as the ontological ground of “womanliness.” Like Smith’s 
Scanners— only more disturbingly so because she is a female subject — Deirdre 
has become all mind and sight. 

Moore’s story raises the same apprehensions about monstrosity that we 
see in “Scanners,” although not from Deirdre’s perspective, to which the text 
never provides direct access. Appropriately, given her status as a famous 
performer, she remains the fascinating object of the gaze of Moore’s other 
characters, all of whom are male, and, by extension, the object of our own 
readerly gaze. Her erstwhile manager, for instance, worries that without a 
human body, Deirdre — in a techno-body which is sleekly beautiful but lacking 
in human features— will become as monstrous as Martel. “Deirdre was gone, 
and this was only machinery”^” is his initial reaction to his first sight of 
her. Moore’s text is exploratory, however, rather than conclusive, keeping its 
anxious oppositions in careful balance. At various times to other characters, 
Dierdre is either more human than ever or increasingly machine-like; more 
beautiful than ever or increasingly grotesque; more in touch with audiences 
than ever, or more and more withdrawn from humanity. While “No Woman 
Born” explores some of the same anxieties of performance seen in Smith’s story, 
here they are generated by not by the cyborg subject herself, but her 
human/male observers. 

Where Moore’s story differs radically from “Scanners” is in the implications 
of its (non)resolution. Looking forward to contemporary theories of perfor- 
mativity, it seems to support the concept of identity as an “ontology-effect” 
constituted in discourse and performance. “Is she human?” is not exactly the 
right question in this context. It may be more useful to ask: “how successfully 
does she cite human behavior?” When her manager rejects the idea that she can 
return to the stage, Deirdre provides him with irrefutable proof that audiences 
will continue to accept her as her self:^' “She threw her head back and let her 

4. Technobodies and the Anxieties of Performance (Hollinger) 


body sway and her shoulders shake, and the laughter, like the music, filled the 
theater.... And she was a woman now. Humanity had dropped over her like a 
tangible garment” (265).^^ It may be that Deirdre’s true monstrosity arises not 
because she has ceased to be feminine, and therefore has ceased to be human, 
but precisely because her performance of femininity/humanity is so convincing 
at the same time as it is so obviously a performance.^^ If the “unnatural” cyborg 
body can so successfully “put on” humanity, then, Moore’s story suggests, 
humanity — like gender — is always to some extent a performance, an “onto- 
logical fiction” produced in discourse and representation. 

Constructing Deirdre as already a consummate performer is a brilliant 
move on Moore’s part, because it serves to maintain the indeterminacy that 
shadows all her actions.^'* Here, for instance, is her manager’s conflicted reaction 
to the performance that “proves” she is still human: 

she was the Deirdre he had always known, pale gold, exquisitely graceful in remem- 
bered postures, the inner radiance of her shining through metal as brilliantly as it 
had ever shone through flesh. He did not wonder, now, if it were real. Later he would 
think again that it might be only a disguise, something like a garment she had put 
off with her lost body, to wear again only when she chose. ... He watched, convinced 
for the moment that she was all she seemed to be. (279-280) 

Unlike Smith’s story, “No Woman Born” appears to undermine the con- 
viction that there is an essential humanity grounded in the natural body, but 
also recognizes the ineluctable links between embodiment and subjectivity. 
This is not a story, like “Scanners,” about selfhood lost and regained; it is about 
the self coming-into-being. Where “Scanners” resolves itself through a human- 
ist reactivation of “ontological hygiene,” Moore’s story resolutely traces the 
logic of the body/machine interface until it arrives at — or at least points 
toward — the site of a potential posthuman subjectivity. 

“No Woman Born” is the opening scene of a cyborg-bildungsroman, the 
first step in a techno-coming-of-age-story. Like Gibson’s idoru, Deirdre is “a 
posthuman emergent identity,” but, unlike the idoru, Deirdre links other to 
self. She recognizes the possibility that a new kind of subject is originating at 
the interface of human mind and techno-body. She calls attention to her 
increasing detachment from humanity, her sense of increasing isolation from 
flesh-and-blood bodies, her new and singular position as “[a] sort of mutation 
halfway between flesh and metal” (286). This suggests an even more radical 
sense in which she has become monstrous, in fact: her gleaming metallic body, 
her great speed and strength, her reduction to mind and sight — these are mark- 
ers of the male subject. Her very existence as cyborg collapses distinctions not 
only between humanity and technology, but perhaps even more radically, 
between feminine and masculine. As Deirdre contemplates the inevitability of 
her ongoing transformation, the story’s final words imply the challenge and 
crisis of the cyborg subject: “T wonder,’ she repeated, the distant taint of metal 
already in her voice” (288). 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 


In a brilliant 1993 essay, “The Life Cycle of Cyborgs,” Hayles describes the 
cyborg as “standing at the threshold separating the human from the posthu- 
man. “Scanners Live in Vain” and “No Woman Born” are exemplary early 
threshold stories about our experiences of self-estrangement as subjects-in- 
technoculture. Although they are very different, they are both equally true, 
telling us that, even at the relatively “primitive” level of the early cyborg, it has 
never been easy to become posthuman. And more than half a century after 
these stories appeared, we still wonder about the nature of technosdentific 
nature; we still worry about threats to our perceived authenticity, singularity, 
and spontaneity as sovereign human subjects; we remain caught in the theo- 
retical tensions between the free-standing subject of humanism and a more 
modest selfhood constituted under the sign of performance. 

Recalling Graham’s observation that “Technoscience is culture because it 
performs the task of reflecting the world back to us and of articulating its own 
(increasingly definitive) version of reality” (30), it is worth considering how 
science fiction also helps to shape our ideas about ourselves. If “I” am becoming 
“posthuman,” it is at least in part in response to the exemplary subjects with 
which some science fiction stories have “embodied” the abstract modelling of 
technoscience. “Science fiction too is involved in the ongoing “critical ontology 
of ourselves” beautifully described by Michel Foucault as “a philosophical life 
in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical 
analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the pos- 
sibility of going beyond them.”^^ Appropriately, the title of Foucault’s essay is 
“What is Enlightenment?” 


1. Since it was first drafted, sections of this chapter have appeared in several publi- 
cations, including “Posthumanism and Cyborg Theory,” in The Routledge Companion 
to Science Fiction, ed. Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, and Sherryl Vint 
(London: Routledge, 2009, 267-27S), and “Retrofitting Frankenstein,” in Beyond Cyber- 
punk, ed. Graham Murphy and Vint (New York: Routledge, 2010). 

2. Elaine L. Graham, Representations of the Post/Fluman: Monsters, Aliens and Others 
in Popular Culture (New Brunswick, NJ : Rutgers Lfniversity Press, 2002), 30. Subsequent 
page references in the text are to this edition. 

3. N. Katherine Hayles, Flow We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, 
Literature, and Informatics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 22. Subsequent 
page references in the text are to this edition. 

4. For Hayles, this valorization of pattern over presence risks, among other things, 
the return to a kind of metaphysics in which “disembodied information becomes the 
ultimate Platonic form” (13). 

5. Tony Davies, Humanism (London: Routledge, 1997), 60. Theories of performativ- 
ity, however, argue that “Where there is an T’ who utters or speaks and thereby produces 
an effect in discourse, there is first a discourse which precedes and enables that ‘T and 

4. Technobodies and the Anxieties of Performance (Hollinger) 


forms in language the constraining trajectory of its will” ( Judith Butler, Bodies that Mat- 
ter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” [New York: Routledge, 1993], 225). Subsequent 
Butler page references in the text are to this edition. 

6. William Gibson, Idoru (New York: Putnam, 1996), 92. Subsequent page references 
in the text are to this edition. 

7. Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties (New York: Putnam, 1999), 69. Subsequent page 
references in the text are to this edition. 

8. Idoru’s Zona Rosa, who interacts with other humans only in cyberspace, turns 
out to be literally performing her identity. She is the electronic persona of a badly 
deformed young woman named Mercedes Purissima, who “has lived for the past five 
years in almost complete denial of her physical self” (285). In Gibson’s text, the discovery 
of this “performance” seemingly is not aimed at drawing the line (again) between authen- 
tic and inauthentic identities; rather, it broadens the reader’s sense of the potential for 
a range of subjectivities to inhabit and interact with each other in a variety of both 
embodied and disembodied ways. 

9. While vast amounts of scholarship have focused on Gibson’s writing, especially 
Neuromancer (1984), Egan has so far attracted less critical attention. Ross Farnell’s 
“Attempting Immortality: Al, A-Life, and the Posthuman in Greg Egan’s Permutation 
City” (Science Fiction Studies, 27 [March, 2000], 69-91) provides a good overview of 
some of Egan’s dense and dizzying future extrapolations. 

10. Greg Egan, Diaspora (London: Millennium, 1997), 31. Subsequent page references 
in the text are to this edition. “Polises” are, of course, the ideal Greek cities, the right 
size for diversification but still small enough for everyone to be connected. 

11. In this fictional world inhabited by such a wide variety of differing subjectivities, 
however, Carter-Zimmerman’s appreciation of the physical world is not founded on 
any taken-for-granted valorization of one state of being over any other: “We choose to 
value the physical world. That’s what defines us, but it’s as arbitrary as any other choice 
of values.... It’s not the One True Path which the infidels have to be bludgeoned into 
following” (217). 

12. One should recall that the challenge posed by Donna Haraway’s figure of the 
posthuman cyborg in her “A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” one of the foundational critical 
texts of postmodernism, is posed in terms of the same disruption of “the ontological 
hygiene” of the Western philosophical tradition. 

13. Some foundational studies in the construction of theories of performativity 
include J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words, Second Edition, ed. J. O. Urmson 
and Marina Sbisa [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975[; Jacques Derrida’s “Sig- 
nature, Event, Context” (Glyph, 1 [1977], 172-197); and Butler’s Bodies that Matter. As 
Butler explains, “performativity cannot be understood outside of a process of iterability, 
a regularized and constrained repetition of norms. And this repetition is not performed 
by a subject; this repetition is what enables a subject and constitutes the temporal con- 
dition for the subject. This iterability implies that ‘performance’ is not a singular ‘act’ 
or event, but a ritualized production reiterated under and through constraint ... but 
not, I will insist, determining it fully in advance” (95). 

14. See Marvin Carlson’s Performance: A Critical Introduction (New York: Routledge, 
1996) for one of the best general overviews of the field. As Carlson notes, the term “per- 
formance” has come to incorporate a broad range of ideas, including several that are 
particularly relevant to my purposes here: 1) performance as in theatrical role-playing 
and display, which also implies self-consciousness and self-reflexivity (Carlson 5); 2) 
performance as related to “the general success of an activity in light of some standard 
of achievement,” including machine performance (Carlson 5); 3) performance as the 
repetition “of a recognized and culturally coded pattern of behaviour,” as in the per- 
formance of social roles (Carlson 4). 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

15. Carol McGuirk’s “The Rediscovery of Cordwainer Smith” {Science Fiction Studies, 
28 [July, 2001], 161-200), a detailed and incisive discussion of this unusual writer’s 
career, points out that “The first uses of the word ‘cyborg’ date from 1960 ... even the 
parent-term ‘cybernetics,’ coined by Norbert Wiener in 1948, entered the language after 
the writing of ‘Scanners.’ Smith sees something of the future in his emphasis on Martel’s 
conjoining of mechanical and biological identity” (171). McGuirk also notes Martel’s 
“virtual castration” (176), to which I refer below. 

16. Cordwainer Smith, “Scanners Live in Vain,” The Science Fiction Flail of Fame, ed. 
Robert Silverberg (1970; New York: Avon, 1971), 354-390. Originally published in Fan- 
tasy Book (1950). Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

17. In his study of modernity and transgression, John Jervis notes that, “Crossing 
boundaries as they do, cyborgs ... become a further manifestation of the discourse, and 
the experience, of the monstrous” ( Transgressing the Modern: Explorations in the Western 
Experience of Otherness [Oxford: Blackwell, 1999], 206); subsequent Jervis page references 
in the text are to this edition. “Scanners Live in Vain” is a convincing demonstration of 
the horror evoked by the hybrid techno-body as the product of a monstrous boundary- 

18. Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. mentions “Scanners Live in Vain” in the context of his 
cogent analysis “On the Grotesque in Science Fiction” {Science Fiction Studies, 29 [March, 
2002], 75). He also reminds readers of conventional associations of the female body 
with the category of the grotesque; it is worth considering that the bodies of Scanners— 
insofar as they have been both castrated and penetrated by technology — have been fem- 
inized in Smith’s story, a process in keeping with their function as representations of 
the technological grotesque. 

19. The discovery involves live oysters. 

20. C. L. Moore, “No Woman Born,” The Best ofC. L. Moore, ed. Lester Del Rey (New 
York: Ballantine, 1975), 242. Originally published in Astounding Science-Fiction (Decem- 
ber, 1944). 

21. As I observed of this story in another article, “It is worth remembering that the 
‘original’ Deirdre was already a consummate performer. As such, she represented fem- 
ininity as spectacle and was the object of desire for millions of adoring fans. Deirdre’s 
‘natural’ performances are, in fact, electronic mediations and she herself is adept at per- 
forming the image of femininity, at least for those same adoring fans” (Veronica 
Hollinger, “(Re)reading Queerly: Science Fiction, Feminism, and the Defamiliarization 
of Gender,” Science Fiction Studies, 26 [March, 1999], 30). 

22. Graham makes the point that “one of the functions of monsters is to be a spectacle 
of abnormality” (39). Deirdre’s status as a hybrid subject indeed renders her monstrous 
in the eyes of men observing her, but it is worth considering in this context that, as a 
performer, her role has always been to be on display. And given our conventional asso- 
ciations of woman’s body with the body of nature, Deirdre is also monstrous insofar as 
her new body is the “unnatural” product of technology. As Jervis notes, “woman’s ‘close- 
ness’ to nature is rationalized through science, and women are precluded from full par- 
ticipation in modernity as project, and there is a resulting tension between woman as 
subject, responsible agent, and woman as object, of masculine control” (124). Moore’s 
early cyborg story mounts an extraordinary challenge to modernity’s constructions of 
both “the feminine” and “woman.” 

23. Like the drag performances discussed by Butler, Deirdre’s performance casts doubt 
upon the ontological “reality” of human nature. 

24. It is worth considering the association in science fiction of female cyborg-figures 
with aspects of performance, in stories by both women and men. In film the earliest 
example is probably the evil robot-Maria of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927); in fiction, 
examples include Moore’s Deirdre; the idoru of Idoru and All Tomorrow’s Parties; Angie 

4. Technobodies and the Anxieties of Performance (Hollinger) 


in Gibson’s Count Zero (1986); Delphi in James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged 
In” (1971); Helva in Anne McCaffrey’s “The Ship Who Sang” (1961); Donna in Storm 
Constantine’s “Immaculate” (1991) — the list can go on and on. 

25. Hayles, “The Life Cycle of Cyborgs: Writing the Posthuman,” A Question of Iden- 
tity: Women, Science, and Literature, ed. Marina Benjamin (New Brunswick, NJ : Rutgers 
University Press, 1993), 153. 

26. Appropriately, Hayles’s How We Became Posthuman uses the term “embodied nar- 
ratives” (22) to suggest the heterogeneous nature of the worlds of fiction, in contrast to 
the abstraction of modelled worlds produced in theoretical discourse. Other sf texts that 
might usefully be examined in the context that I’m developing here include Brian Aldiss’s 
“Supertoys Last All Summer Long” (1961); Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot (1950); Pat Cadigan’s 
“Pretty Boy Crossover” (1987); Constantine’s “Immaculate” (1991); Philip K. Dick’s Do 
Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) and “The Electric Ant” (1968); Egan’s “Reasons 
to Be Cheerful” (1997); Shariann Lewitt’s “A Real Girl” (1998); Pat Murphy’s “Rachel 
in Love” (1987); Amy Thompson’s Virtual Girl (1993); and Tiptree’s “The Girl Who Was 
Plugged In” (1973). 

27. Michel Foucault, “What Is Enlightenment?,” The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabi- 
now (New York, Pantheon Books, 1984), 50. 


Places of Alterity in 
Science Fiction 

Richard L. McKinney 

Place matters. According to philosopher I. E. Malpas, “There is good reason 
to suppose that the human relationship to place is a fundamental structure in 
what makes possible the sort of life that is characteristically human, while also 
being determining [...] of human identity.”' Furthermore, Malpas says. 

The grasp of a sense of place is not just important to a grasp of self, nor even a grasp 
of the inter-subjective realm of others, but also to a grasp of the world itself [....] 
the very possibility of understanding or of knowledge resides in locatedness and in 
a certain embeddedness in place. (189) 

Among other arguments supporting his claims, Malpas points to the central 
role of place in the works of canonical writers like Marcel Proust, William 
Wordsworth, William Faulkner, Seamus Heaney, and Salman Rushdie. Numer- 
ous scholars— philosophers, human geographers, anthropologists, sociologists, 
environmentalists, literary scholars, and others— also note and comment on 
(often under rubrics such as landscape, environment, surroundings, space, or 
locality) the importance of place in our conceptual, artistic, and social lives. 
The central claim of this chapter is that in science fiction (referred to subse- 
quently and synonymously as SP and transmimetic fiction) place also matters, 
although the genre often confronts its percipients (a term for readers, viewers, 
or listeners of a work of art, irrespective of medium) with places that do not 
really exist. 

Place is rarely discussed at length in analyses of literature (though more 
attention has been given to the subject in film studies), since depictions of place 
are not normally included among the main elements of fiction. Place instead 
occupies a subordinate role as description, background, or setting. Place is not 
commonly thought to give depth to characters, advance plot, or facilitate ethical 
arguments, although, on greater examination, it becomes apparent that it can 
indeed accomplish all three. Even when a work is not expressly and specifically 


5. Places of Alterity in Science Fiction (McKinney) 


about a particular place, it may be impossible to fathom vital aspects of that 
work without understanding the role and importance of the locations where it 
occurs. Plot twists and turns are not independent of the physical, geographical, 
and social landscapes on which they play out. Characters, too, are only fully 
accessible in relation to the spatial and temporal places where they move and 
act. This is of course both obvious and trivial with respect to all fiction, not 
just SF. Even among non-fantastic works, it is not difficult to think of a novel 
or movie where place is stronger than either plot or characters, at least in terms 
of its impact on percipients. Historical fiction, for example, is a genre in which 
location, as a rule, is vital to the storytelling, as is sometimes detective fiction. 
The point with science fiction, however, is that its places may well be prime 
examples of one or another kind of alterity. The location is not just Chicago, 
but the Chicago shared with robots in Alex Proyas’s film I, Robot (2004); not 
just Baltimore, but the nanotech-damaged Baltimore of Kathleen Ann Goonan’s 
Queen City Jazz (1994); not just Shanghai, but the future Shanghai of Neal 
Stephenson’s The Diamond Age (1995). 

I realize that the concept of place is neither simple nor unproblematic. 
However, I will not delve into the complex relationship between diverse ideas 
of place and space; nor will I investigate claims that an understanding of place 
in fiction as little more than background or simply as straightforward setting 
misses the inherently relational aspects of place, its necessary construction by 
readers or viewers, its fuzzy boundaries and contours, and its unavoidable 
changeableness over time. Such issues— important though they are (and I 
emphasize that they are important) — do not fit into the more modest remit of 
this chapter. Instead, I will focus on explicitly manifest places found in story- 
worlds of science fiction books, films, and TV programs. Rich Horton, intro- 
ducing an annual anthology of stories chosen as the “best” of science fiction 
and fantasy, asserts that, along with possibly historical fiction, SF and fantasy 
are genres dehned by their settings, i.e., by place. ^ Even someone with relatively 
limited contact with the genre cannot help but notice the prominence of place 
in science fiction. This chapter, then, is in part a plea for a greater consideration 
of place as place in discussions of transmimetic literature. 

This chapter is not just about place, however; it is also about alterity, or 
otherness. And alterity, too, matters. This concept is also not without contro- 
versy, including a certain amount of inconsistency concerning its use in both 
the human and social sciences. I have neither time nor space to enter this debate, 
and therefore will concentrate on elements of fiction that are relatively explicit 
examples of otherness in the fictional worlds of the works under discussion, 
whether that alterity is manifest in terms of novelty, difference, transgression, 
deviance, or transformation. 

Alterity is, of course, a central and required ingredient in all science fiction; 
so much so that it is actually a defining characteristic of the genre. In The Known 
and the Unknown, Gary K. Wolfe sees a confrontation with the Other, in the 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

form of the unknown, as one of the distinguishing aspects of SF.’ Mark Rose 
significantly calls his study of the genre Alien Encounters,'' and Gwyneth Jones 
writes “that what people mean when they say ‘science fiction’ at its greatest pos- 
sible expansion, is anything that involves an attempt to make sense of something 
alien [....] In the end it includes all that’s outside ourselves.”^ The novum, which 
is what Darko Suvin calls that non-realistic element in a fictional universe nec- 
essary to identify a work as science fiction, is by definition intrinsically Other, 
presented via “an imaginative framework alternative to the author’s empirical 

There are, however, both degrees and kinds of alterity: otherness can vary 
from the slightly different or barely new to the radically strange or completely 
alien. And an Other need not be — and oftentimes is not — science fictional in 
order to be Other. When the alterity present is transmimetic in nature, it can 
be seen (using concepts and terminology borrowed from Carl D. Malmgren) 
as mainly extrapolative or predominately speculative.^ Extrapolation is the cen- 
tral technique found in what has appropriately been called the “if this goes on” 
type of fiction, referring to the extension of already- discernible present-day 
trends into the future. This is basically what professional futurologists do when 
they attempt to predict what tomorrow may offer. Speculation, on the other 
hand, involves a more open-ended kind of imaginative creation, or as Malm- 
gren says, “Speculation is [...] a more ‘creative’ or ‘freer’ mental operation, in 
which the writer who chooses to speculate is cut loose from the current state 
of affairs” (12-13). This does not provide science fiction storytellers with unlim- 
ited freedom, however, as it might for creators of fantasy, because SF places its 
own demands for a kind of plausibility on its creators, since it, in Malmgren’s 
words, “incorporates supernatural, estranged, or nonempirical elements but 
grounds those elements in a naturalizing discourse which takes for granted the 
explicability of the universe” (10). Transmimetic alterity can be manifest in a 
storyworld as a single isolated element, a number of interlinked factors, or a 
deeply pervasive atmosphere which affects the entire fictional environment. 
Clearly, alterity also resides in the persons who inhabit a fictional universe, the 
props which surround those characters, or even — more subtly, more indirectly, 
but perhaps more powerfully — in the plot which structures a story. And oth- 
erness does not necessarily manifest itself openly as difference which is obvious 
or evident. Finally, an argument could be made for what might be called the 
axiological alterity of certain ethical positions and particular moral stances 
which interrogate longstanding, or criticize widely-held, viewpoints, traditions, 
and norms. 

A further specification or narrowing of the focus of this discussion occurs 
because what 1 am especially (though not exclusively) interested in are forms 
of alterity that are manifest as aspects of place: when and how place is Other. 
Certain transmimetic locations present a unique challenge to storytellers: they 
do not actually exist, nor have they ever existed, ft is not unusual for the setting 

5. Places of Alterity in Science Fiction (McKinney) 


of an SF story to be radically different from places of which percipients have 
knowledge or experience. 

To establish the validity of my claims, 1 will discuss selected works of 
science fiction whose storyworlds offer clear, strong examples of alterity of 
place. These novels, films, and TV series have been chosen because of the 
strength, degree, and/or originality of the otherness in their fictional worlds. 
These selections are not intended to be canonical or exhaustive; nor does the 
scope of this chapter allow for in-depth analyses of these works. Nevertheless, 
my examples will serve well enough to demonstrate the variety of places and 
diversity of alterity found in transmimetic fiction. 1 will examine five categories 
or kinds of place: cities, other (non-terrestrial) planets, the wider universe, 
inner landscapes, and, finally, what 1 call places outside traditional mappings 
of the world. 

The city of tomorrow is an absolutely central canonical theme and major 
motif of science fiction, and has been designated as one of the genre’s icons by 
Wolfe (86-124). A significant number of SF’s major and minor classics are set 
in future cities. Whether manifest as glittering towers and soaring architecture; 
a world of wonder encased in a dome; a dangerous, decadent, and degenerate 
concrete, plastic, and/or steel jungle; or empty and desolate ruins, the urban 
futures of SF are many and multifaceted. These urban tomorrows can leave 
strong impressions in the consciousnesses of readers or viewers who encounter 
them, sometimes long after the characters who walked their streets, or plots 
which played out among their buildings, have faded from their minds. 

Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars (1956), a substantially revised 
and tellingly re-titled version of his 1948 novel. Against the Fall of Night, pro- 
vides us with Diaspar, an almost archetypical example of one particular kind 
of science fictional city, entirely enclosed in a giant protective dome, controlled 
and protected by computers, isolated and alone on the barren desert of a far- 
future Earth. The novel’s opening lines, evoking the almost elegiac mood found 
in Clarke’s SF at times, are particularly memorable: 

Like a glowing jewel, the city lay upon the breast of the desert. Once it had known 
change and alteration, but now Time passed it by. Night and day fled across the 
desert’s face, but in the streets of Diaspar it was always afternoon, the darkness never 
came. The long winter nights might dust the desert with frost, as the last moisture 
left in the thin air of Earth congealed — but the city knew neither heat nor cold. It 
had no contact with the outer world; it was a universe itself. 

Men had built cities before, but never a city such as this. Some had lasted for cen- 
turies, some for millenniums, before Time had swept away even their names. Diaspar 
alone had challenged Eternity, defending itself and all it sheltered against the slow 
attrition of the ages, the ravages of decay, and the corruption of rust. 

Since the City was built, the oceans of Earth had passed away and the desert had 
encompassed all the globe. The last mountains had been ground to dust by the winds 
and the rain, and the world was too weary to bring forth more. The city did not 
care; Earth itself could crumble and Diaspar would still protect the children of its 
makers, bearing them and their treasures safely down the stream of Time.® 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

The language of this passage describes a place imbued with an alterity 
recalling the sublimity of Edmund Burke or nineteenth-century Romantics. 
The city, whose unique character can only be described in superlatives, is a 
place of extremes. Diaspar possesses an otherness that sets it apart from common 
knowledge or everyday experience. This city bypassed by Time (not just time), 
which has challenged Eternity, and which can qualify as a universe in itself well 
exemplifies numerous manifestations of alterity of place. 

Another, quite different, city — a future version of New York — is found 
in Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel (1954), part of the author’s Robots sequence. 
This city is the backdrop to a plot structured as a murder mystery. Investigating 
the murder requires the two police detectives who are the protagonists (one of 
whom is a robot) to move about the city to solve the crime, simultaneously 
providing readers with an opportunity to gain considerable knowledge about 
this specific urban storyworld and thereby also exemplifying what good crime 
fiction can do so well. Most of the city’s countless citizens suffer from severe 
agoraphobia, since the huge metal domes entirely enclosing the city allow nei- 
ther weather nor even natural sunshine to reach inhabitants, as implied by the 
book’s title. Note the following conversation between the human detective, Eli- 
jah Baley, and his superior: 

[The Commissioner] touched an inconspicuous contact switch and a section of the 
wall grew transparent. 

Baley blinked at the unexpected insurge of grayish light. 

The Commissioner smiled. “I had this arranged specially last year, Lije. I don’t 
think I’ve showed it to you before. Come over here and take a look. In the old days, 
all rooms had things like this. They were called ‘windows.’ Did you know that?” 

Baley knew that very well, having viewed many historical novels. 

“I’ve heard of them,” he said. 

“Come here.” 

Baley squirmed a bit, but did as he was told. There was something indecent about 
the exposure of the privacy of a room to the outside world [....] 

With mild shock, Baley realized that it was raining. For a minute, he was lost in 
the spectacle of water dropping from the sky, while the Commissioner exuded a kind 
of pride as though the phenomenon were a matter of his own arranging. 

“This is the third time this month I’ve watched it rain. Quite a sight, don’t you 

Against his will, Baley had to admit to himself that it was impressive. In his forty- 
two years he had rarely seen rain, or any of the phenomena of nature, for that mat- 

Here, Baley is forced to confront examples of unanticipated otherness in his 
world, to realize that in a place about which he felt knowledgeable and where 
he thought himself relatively secure, alterity could suddenly intrude, in this 
case as a window, or rain. For readers of this novel, however, it is precisely 
Baley’s surprise and unease which constitutes the alterity. A place which pro- 
duces such a reaction in one of its inhabitants is a place of alterity. 

Asimov referred to himself as an author of what he called “social science 

5. Places of Alterity in Science Fiction (McKinney) 


fiction,”'" and much of the otherness of this particular New York is indeed 
framed in social terms. The greatly increased population density of the city has 
led to major changes in how people live, the manner in which they interact, 
even in the ways they move about. Most significant, however, have been the 
psychological changes: transformations in habits, values, and attitudes. New 
norms and customs have developed, shaped by the constant contacts with others 
which everyone must endure. The Caves of Steel allows readers to explore the 
alterity of the overcrowded New York on display, to examine certain kinds of 
otherness that might develop given the physical and social conditions suggested 
in the novel. 

Interestingly, Asimov wrote a sequel. The Naked Sun (1957), another mys- 
tery involving the detectives seen in The Caves of Steel, which describes a place 
with a social structure diametrically opposite to the fictional New York: a world 
of strict population control where individuals live alone (or only with spouses) 
on huge estates, isolated from contact with other people and cared for by robot 

Other transmimetic fiction about the future city that focuses on overpop- 
ulation as an important element of alterity includes Harry Harrison’s Make 
Room! Make Room! (1966), James Blish and Norman L. Knight’s A Torrent of 
Paces (1967), John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar (1968), and Robert Silverberg’s 
The World Inside (1971). Comparing the crowded places described in these sto- 
ries, all examples of extrapolative SF, produces interesting perspectives on what 
kind of alterity population pressures might lead to. Considering the age of these 
novels, however, reading them in parallel also sheds light on how a work of sci- 
ence fiction is a product of the time when it is created, reflecting the issues, val- 
ues, and concerns of that era. Of course, definitions of, and attitudes toward, 
the Other are also historically specific, and it can be worthwhile to ask what 
makes a particular place seem more or less alien at a given time. Obviously, 
analogous questions can be posed concerning the social and cultural specificity 
of alterity. Examining how (from the perspectives of twenty-first century ver- 
sions of, e.g., feminism, queer theory, postcolonialism, postmodernism, or evo- 
lutionary theory) works from the 1960s and 1970s treat issues of alterity tells 
us valuable things about both the period and alterity itself. 

Films and television programs, utilizing the intrinsic differences and 
strengths of the media, can show otherness in an immediate and effective man- 
ner. Techniques of audiovisual storytelling (including CGI and other special 
effects) allow for immediate immersion in fictional worlds rich in alterity. A 
number of notable cinematic cities, for example, have been created over the 
years. The earliest such film I will mention has been called, by Andrew M. But- 
ler, “the first undisputed classic of science fiction cinema.”" Although a public 
and financial disaster when first released, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) remains 
a visually impressive accomplishment. This is a movie remembered because of 
the visual place it presents to audiences, rather than for the future society it 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

depicts, which was unrealistic and cliched even at the time of its premier. Nev- 
ertheless, it has been hugely influential among cinematic storytellers, and echoes 
of its now-iconic imagery and architecture are found in any number of later 

A more recent cinema classic dealing with an urban future especially rich in 
alterity, and on which the influence of Metropolis is apparent, is Ridley Scott’s 
Blade Runner (1982). One strength of this film is the great amount of detail with 
which it depicts its fictional world. Blade Runner immerses percipients in a fictional 
world filled with specificity. This detail is not focused or elaborated on; it neither 
needs to be nor is explained. Scott Bukatman describes the film like this: 

The brilliance of Blade Runner [...] is located in its visual density. Scott’s “layering” 
effect produces an inexhaustible complexity, an infinity of surfaces to be encountered 
and explored, and BWeRun/ier refuses to explain itself [....] The viewer [...] is forced 
to make constant inferences in order to understand the detailed world that the film 
presents. “ 

A significant amount of the otherness of this urban landscape lies in the 
fact that all these diverse and complex images on the screen constantly and 
simultaneously demand the viewer’s attention. Each image of alterity is always 
competing with other Others, as it were. Meanwhile, the pace of the movie 
allows little or no time for percipients to process the overwhelming stream of 
new data and information. 

Other films worth mentioning because of the manner in which they visu- 
alize dark urban tomorrows (the influence of Metropolis is again apparent) 
include Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) and Alex Proyas’s Dark City (1998). Dark 
City might have ended up in my final category of works, those dealing with 
places outside traditional mappings of the world, since the city it offers us is 
exceedingly strange. Its plot is built on a number of mysteries, the most impor- 
tant concerning the nature of the city itself. Each day all people in the city stop, 
literally falling asleep while the city around them rearranges itself into new 
shapes and patterns. When they awaken, their identities have been altered and 
they remember nothing of the recent past. One man, John Murdoch (Rufus 
Sewell), seems immune to these odd events, but he is a suspect in a murder 
investigation and his own memory is incomplete. The complex plot develop- 
ment, impossible to summarize here, later introduces aliens, the Strangers, who 
are pulling the city’s strings, as it were, manipulating people in an effort to save 
their own species. There is little in this film’s city that is not Other, and much 
of that otherness only becomes apparent as the movie progresses. Through 
much of the story, it might be correctly said that the more we learn, the less we 
know — or at any rate, understand. Knowledge, in the form of raw data, does 
not solve the mysteries that, for a considerable amount of time, dominate our 
perceptions of the film. Alterity cannot be eliminated or understood in so simple 
a manner as by collecting more information, but must be placed in an appro- 
priate relational context and investigated there. 

5. Places of Alterity in Science Fiction (McKinney) 


Proyas, incidentally, later directed I, Robot, a film whose explicitly extrap- 
olative urban landscape, Chicago of the year 2035, is visually striking in a way 
completely different from Dark City. The later movie is distinguished by lighter 
imagery and an emphasis on transparency. 

Stories set on other planets represent another characteristic and significant 
category of science fiction which has also produced its share of classic tales. 
From the relatively local worlds of our own solar system to the far reaches of 
the universe, such settings provide fertile ground for exploring the potentials 
of place beyond the Earth. 

Closest to Earth, the Moon has been the location for a number of SF writers 
and filmmakers. In Clarke’s A FaH ofMoondust (1961), a tourist boat disappears 
while plying the surface of the (fictional) Sea of Thirst on the Moon. It turns 
out that a sudden and unexpected moonquake caused the ship to sink into the 
treacherous dust which fills this lunar mare. The alterity of the dust-filled Sea 
of Thirst thereby becomes both a mystery to be solved and a threat to be over- 
come by passengers. This otherness, however, is not personified, but a natural, 
if unknown and dangerous, aspect of the universe which must be understood 
before it can be dealt with. The protagonists of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s 
Retrieval Artist sequence live in a domed habitat on the Moon, and many adven- 
tures in that series occur there. The importance of place is evident in Extremes 
(2003), the second novel, which revolves in part around the death of a runner 
in the annual Moon Marathon, an extreme sports race conducted across the 
barren lunar landscape. 

Mars is the planet in our solar system which has been visited most often 
by transmimetic explorers. Notable examples of SF set on Mars include Ray 
Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (1950), Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy 
(1993-1996), and Ben Bova’s Mars (1992), while films focusing on the planet 
include Brian De Palma’s Mission to Mars (2000) and Anthony Hoffman’s Red 
Planet (2000). 

A classic among more distant extraterrestrial landscapes is the planet 
Mesklin from Hal Clement’s Mission of Gravity (1954). Clement, an author 
renowned for the care he took in creating alien worlds, produced a truly 
fascinating imaginary planet, the planetology and evolutionary biology of 
which was worked out relatively rigorously. Mesklin is a supergiant planet 
with methane oceans, sixteen times as massive as Jupiter, oblate rather than 
spherical in shape (due to an extremely high rate of spin, a Mesklin day is only 
seventeen and three quarter minutes long), with gravity that varies from around 
three to nearly seven hundred times that of Earth. This is an original place 
of considerable alterity. Less successfully, the centipede-like inhabitants 
who inhabit Mesklin display distinctly anthropomorphic (and somewhat 
cliched) personality traits and social characteristics. Unfortunately, far too 
many transmimetic aliens are less manifestations of alterity than thinly-dis- 
guised examples of the familiar. Hidden under the external alien shapes and 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

forms are traditional human patterns of behavior and well-known values and 

The most renowned novel dealing in detail with an alien world is surely 
Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965). This book and its six sequels (1965-1985) are fre- 
quently cited as contemporary classics of science fiction world-building. Her- 
bert was inspired in part by the science of desert ecology, and Dune is explicitly 
dedicated “to the dry-land ecologists. This cycle of books, which can be called 
transmimetic ecofiction, is set in the far future, against the backdrop of the 
desert planet Arrakis, or Dune. Herbert’s ecological perspective comes across 
in the way he deals with the alterity of this alien and forbidding place, which 
Brian W. Aldiss and David Wingrove say “is as intensely realized as any in sci- 
ence fiction. The shortage of water, for instance, is presented not just diagram- 
matically, but as a living fact which permeates all facets of existence.”'^ Far from 
Earth, as the only source of the spice which makes travel between the stars pos- 
sible, Arrakis is a harsh, hazardous planet, a valuable pawn in dangerous games 
of interstellar intrigue. 

1 should also mention a novel from 1986 by loan Slonczewski, A Door into 
Ocean , which presents a kind of reverse image of Dune. The moon on which 
the story focuses, the opposite of Arrakis, is a world covered with water. Its 
inhabitants are women, and the novel provides a feminist perspective. Pamela 
Sargent has written of the two works: “If Herbert’s desert world breeds warriors, 
Slonczewski’s ocean world of Shora has produced pacifists.”'^ A comparative 
perspective is valuable here to explore what the differences between these two 
fictional places are indicative of. 

Colonizing other planets is a recurring theme in SF, sometimes by means 
of terraforming. This is one way to meet alterity: by transforming the Other 
(the alien world) into the familiar (a planet with an Earth-like environment). 
So is the case with Mars in Robinson’s Red Mars and its sequels, and with Venus 
in Pamela Sargent’s Venus trilogy (1986-2000). In Coyote (2002) and its sequels, 
Allen Steele produced a series of novels and stories that follow the fortunes of 
a group of exiles from Earth who colonize the planet Coyote after fleeing a 
repressive government at home. Nancy Kress, in Crossfire (2003) and Crucible 
(2004), presents her colonists with, among other problems, unexpected 
humanoid aliens on their new home world. Successful colonization of extra- 
terrestrial planets always involves understanding the local flora and fauna, learn- 
ing to best use native resources, and negotiating with non-human inhabitants, 
when there are any. It may also prove necessary to deal with manifestations of 
otherness amidst human settlers, especially when they have brought from home 
fears of, and prejudices toward. Others among themselves, as proves the case 
in all the examples mentioned above. 

In many SF stories, extraterrestrial worlds contain alien artifacts large and 
complex enough to be considered places on their own terms. In fact, stories 
about objects left behind by vanished alien civilizations occur often enough in 

5. Places of Alterity in Science Fiction (McKinney) 


transmimetic fiction to be classified as an independent subgenre. Among the 
most well-known of such artifacts are the enormous structures which give titles 
to the novels Ringworld by Larry Niven (1970) and Orbitsville by Bob Shaw 
(1975). Silverberg’s aliens left behind a baffling maze in The Man in the Maze 
(1968). In Rogue Moon (1960), Algis Budrys also presents protagonists with a 
mysterious, dangerous, alien-built maze, this time on Earth’s moon, while Mars 
is the location of an empty alien city in Steele’s Labyrinth of Night (1992). In 
Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama (1973) a huge, dormant extraterrestrial space- 
ship enters our solar system and becomes the subject of human exploration 
and investigation. One of the most extravagant of alien artifacts is introduced 
in Greg Bear’s Eon (1985). The protagonists of Bear’s storyworld find that the 
asteroid called Thistledown is larger on the inside than the outside, and con- 
tained within it is a giant tube, or tunnel, known as The Way, that extends not 
only through space, but also through time. 

Stories like these are commonly about the investigation of alien places, 
mystery stories, exploration tales where the mystery to be solved is the nature 
of the place being explored. They almost always present challenges of under- 
standing the mechanisms by which alien places function — at least to the degree 
that humans can manage to stay alive and possibly also find a treasure or solve 
a riddle. The characters’ goal is to eliminate the alterity they have been con- 
fronted with by coming to understand (and subsequently control) it. The alter- 
ity is usually present on at least two interrelated levels, that of the physical 
artifact or place being examined, and the alterity of its alien creators. 

Perhaps surprisingly, films dealing interestingly with alien worlds make 
up a relatively small percentage of the total number of transmimetic movies. 
Before special effects reached their current level of sophistication this was, in 
part, due to the intrinsic technical difficulties of bringing an alien environment 
to life on the screen. Certainly, some of the early attempts are characterized by 
the lack of alterity in supposedly otherworld landscapes which are obviously 
(and sometimes unintentionally comically) terrestrial. There are, nonetheless, 
a few classics in this category, such as Fred M. Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet {1956) 
and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972), the former based — very roughly — on 
William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611), and the latter on Stanislaw Lem’s 
1961 novel. 

The year 2009 saw two notable films set on extraterrestrial worlds, Duncan 
Jones’s low-key Moon (2009) and James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar (2009). 
In both cases, if in different ways, the movies focus on the environments of 
places teeming with otherness. Especially in the latter instance, the enormous 
creative and economic resources used to create and present the planet Pandora 
produced a fictional place which is, for many viewers, by far the single most 
memorable thing about the film. Much of this impact clearly rests on the alterity 
of this extraterrestrial landscape. However, on closer examination, there are 
also many things about Pandora that seem familiar. It would be interesting to 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

compare exactly which aspects of the alien planet are manifestations of genuine 
alterity, and which are actually more appropriately seen as versions of the famil- 
iar or variations of the known. 

In the category I call a wider universe we find works of space opera, a sub- 
genre whose setting is usually far distant from the here and now, ensuring the 
presence of a substantial degree of otherness. This subgenre has recently expe- 
rienced a major renaissance, during which it has been, according to David Lang- 
ford, “significantly redefined,”'® and in the course of which it has, in the words 
of M. Keith Booker and Anne-Marie Thomas, “produced some of the most 
complex and thought-provoking novels in the history of science fiction.”'^ This 
means that the term itself is no longer widely used, as it once was, as a desig- 
nation of opprobrium. Among major contributors to the subgenre in the last 
two decades we find lain M. Banks, Stephen Baxter, Greg Bear, David Brin, 
Peter F. Hamilton, M. John Harrison, Ken MacLeod, Paul McAuley, Alastair 
Reynolds, Justina Robson, Dan Simmons, and Vernor Vinge. Places rich in 
alterity are important in the works of all these writers. 

The places 1 will focus on here are not the single, geographically limited 
locations, such as a building, spacecraft, town, or even an entire planet, 
although these locations can — and often do — provide key settings in works of 
this category. What 1 refer to instead is a depiction of the fictional universe (or, 
at least, a significant portion of it) as a whole. Cosmos as place, so to speak. 
Oftentimes space operas are serial compositions, consisting of a (sometimes 
large) number of works, rather than an isolated novel or standalone television 
program. The vastness of the storyworld canvas in such fiction produces a dif- 
ferent kind of “locatedness” from that of novels, films, or television shows set 
on narrower stages. Place becomes more extensive, cosmopolitan, open. Even 
when many scenes in such fiction are close-ups— limited or even intimate in 
their focus, rich in description and containing extensive local detail — the total- 
ity of effect of works in this category is wide-screen. For this reason, although 
the specific locations where the main action occurs may not be particularly 
interesting or impressive, the fictional world as a whole can still be an original 
and memorable place. That is why relatively routine novels or poorly realized 
episodes of televisual space opera series can nevertheless play out in fascinating 
futures. The place that matters in this case is not the setting of the particular 
work; it is the total storyworld that is elaborated on and filled out as the series 
continues to unfold. The emphasis is not on a place in the fictional universe; 
it is on the fictional universe itself as place. 

Some works of C. J. Cherryh, for instance, can seem almost claustrophobic 
at times in descriptions of particular local places, such as the inside of a space- 
ship or docks of a space station; yet, taken as a whole, the place represented by 
her Alliance-Union sequence of novels is unique and fascinating. Place tran- 
scends the bounds of individual works to take on a life in the mind of Cherryh’s 
readers greater than the sum of the places presented in individual works. Not 

5. Places of Alterity in Science Fiction (McKinney) 


that place is unimportant on the local level in Cherryh’s fiction: just the opposite 
is true, since in several works the local places are important, vital, and mem- 
orable. Cherryh tends to focus on the thoughts and feelings of a lone individual, 
as likely as not someone separated from his or her own friends, family, and cul- 
ture; probably someone immersed in an alien society that is difficult to fathom 
and hazardous to survive in. Cherryh’s protagonists are, as a rule, isolated out- 
siders in situations in which they, often unwillingly, have ended up. They are 
alterity personified, trying to understand and negotiate the otherness of the 
places where they find themselves. Attending to local conditions in the story- 
worlds of Cherryh’s novels is therefore central to formulating an understanding 
of these novels. Nevertheless, Cherryh’s spacecrafts, alien worlds, and space sta- 
tions remain to a degree incompletely understood unless placed in the larger 
context of the fictional universe wherein the stories unfold. 

As is the case with Cherryh, the places where the fictional futures of other 
prominent SF authors occur are larger and have a greater impact when under- 
stood as totalities. As noted with respect to Cherryh, this does not remove the 
possibility of a focus on particular places in individual works, or sections or 
segments of longer works. A chapter of a novel can produce impressive depic- 
tions of specific places which remain only local manifestations of the greater 
totality of a longer work, as is often the case with sequences of works. There 
are, thus, nestings of alterity, where one kind of alterity is embedded within 
other manifestations of alterity, the former likely contributing vitally to the 
larger-scale otherness of the storyworld as a whole. 

In the case of Vinge, the reader is given fiction which explores what might 
be termed ontological alterity. The fictional universe in A Fire Upon the Deep 
(1992) and its prequel A Deepness in the Sky (1999) is genuinely and originally 
different in its basic nature from the actual world we live in. 1 speak here not 
simply of stories set in the far future or peopled with alien beings. These novels 
actually propose a fictional world in which the deep structure of the galaxy is 
radically different from what we currently believe it to be, thereby producing 
a setting that has considerable import for, and impact on, the plot and characters 
of, especially, A Fire Upon the Deep. Readers must therefore mentally map for 
themselves this structure: the otherness of Vinge’s storyworld must be at least 
minimally understood to make sense of the story being told. In addition to his 
grand conception of the galaxy, Vinge also presents in A Fire Upon the Deep 
speculation concerning the characteristics of a kind of interstellar internet, the 
possible nature of a group mind, and the impossibility of understanding the 
evolution of intelligent beings into what amount to gods. Vinge’s original and 
ontological speculations concerning diverse forms and versions of alterity are 
among the book’s strongest traits. 

For practical reasons, a TV series often has a limited number of recurring 
sets where a significant amount of the action occurs. This may be a family living 
room for a sitcom, squad room for a police procedural, or spaceship or space 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

station for an SF drama. Well-known background settings from transmimetic 
television include the starships Enterprise and Voyager and space station Deep 
Space Nine from the Star Trek franchise;^” the eponymous spaceships of Androm- 
eda (2000-2005) and Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979; 2004-2009); the space- 
craft Serenity, from Firefly (2002-2003) (which also provided the setting and 
title for Joss Whedon’s spinoff film from 2005), and space station Babylon 5 
from the series bearing its name (1994-1998). 

All these places merit attention, but the spacecraft Moya, from the TV 
series Parscape (1999-2003), is especially interesting and particularly relevant 
in the present context. Speculative alterity saturates the entire storyworld of 
the series from the beginning. The main place where much of the action tran- 
spires is inside the spaceship Moya. Being a nonhuman ship — immediately and 
obviously alien in design, both inside and out —Moya has a visual impact which 
introduces a significant degree of otherness into the story in the program’s 
initial episode. This is soon reinforced, of course, by the introduction of the 
main characters, only one of whom is human. But Moya is more than just a 
setting — she is also, it turns out, a crucial fictional person. Literally, in this 
case, a place becomes a character in the story. Thereby the series introduces at 
least two different kinds of alterity: the first is manifest in a relatively familiar 
storyworld containing alien beings, basically recognizable from traditional SF 
cinema and TV; the second is more radical, however, involving the need for 
viewers to negotiate the otherness intrinsic to the concept of a place which is 
also a person. 

Perhaps 1 should start my discussion of inner landscapes with the words 
of John Milton: “The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a Heaven 
of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”^' Although Milton was not thinking of the kind of 
places found in the minds of characters in the stories 1 am discussing, the quote 
captures the essence of the “mental” places in works of transmimetic fiction. 
These places do not exist as geographic locations, not even in the fictional uni- 
verses of their stories. They are located in the minds of characters. They are, 
however, no less important as places for that. Being figments of the dreams or 
imaginations of persons, they possess a special kind of alterity. Unlike most SF 
examples 1 discuss, the otherness inside the minds of characters cannot be 
rationally explained in terms of future developments, a journey to another 
planet, or an alternative historical timeline. 

1 emphasize here two works in particular, each of which presents a version 
of the inner landscapes of the human mind. These are Roger Zelazny’s The 
Dream Master (1966; adapted from the novella, “He Who Shapes,” from 1965) 
and Tarsem Singh’s film The Cell (2000). Both present protagonists who enter 
into the mental worlds of characters in the stories. Charles Render, the main 
character of Zelazny’s novel, is a special kind of psychotherapist who treats 
patients by monitoring and “shaping” their dreams. He takes on the task of 
training a young woman to work in his profession — a task which it turns out 

5. Places of Alterity in Science Fiction (McKinney) 


is extremely dangerous, not least because the woman has been blind from birth. 
In The Cell, child psychologist Catherine Deane ( Jennifer Lopez) has developed 
a method of virtual reality which also allows her to enter the dreams of troubled 
children. In an emergency, however, she must use her invention to enter the 
mind of Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio), a comatose serial killer, 
and the only person who knows the whereabouts of one of his victims. If Deane 
cannot find the location of this victim, a girl trapped in a glass enclosure slowly 
filling up with water, she will die. Needless to say, the journey into the mental 
world of Stargher is fraught with life-threatening dangers. What is particularly 
pertinent here is the way that both works interpret the probing of someone’s 
mind in terms of the exploration of places of alterity. Entering the mind of 
another (i.e., an Other) person means venturing into an alien landscape over 
which one has limited control. Faith in one’s own strength and abilities is a 
necessary prerequisite for success on such mental journeys, but overconfidence 
can lead to disaster. 

Among other transmimetic excursions into places of the mind are John 
Brunner’s novel The Whole Man (1964); films like David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ 
(1999), Brazil, and Andy and Lana Wachowski’s Matrix trilogy (1999-2003); 
and the British TV series Life on Mars (2006-2007) and its sequel. Ashes to 
Ashes (2008-2010). Life on Mars is noteworthy for the manner in which it keeps 
percipients in doubt about whether the protagonist, police detective Sam Tyler 
(John Simm), has actually traveled in time from the year 2006 back to 1973; 
alternatively, the world he experiences may be only a figment of his imagination, 
caused by a traffic accident. Both hypotheses seem at times to be supported by 
the evidence. 

Finally, I call attention to three works that show us places that are, in one 
way or another, outside the more traditional mappings of the world we are oth- 
erwise familiar with. In many cases such works deal with some form of onto- 
logical alterity, but not in a straightforward way such as that found in A Fire 
Upon the Deep. Perhaps some of these works fall more into the camp of fantasy 
than that of science fiction, though one might argue that the metaphysical man- 
ner in which these stories and tales query our established pictures of the fun- 
damental nature of the world is not only especially interesting, but also, in 
certain ways, very science-fictional. These works awaken questions concerning 
what it is indeed possible to know about the basic structures of existence. What- 
ever genre they fit into, each depicts a very special kind of place. 

Alternate histories and parallel worlds are usually filled with that kind of 
alterity which is normally based on some significant deviation from history as 
we have come to accept it. An alternative — but more or less realistically devel- 
oped-outcome of a war or marriage, for example, or the consequences of a 
different turn of events, is a typical basis for the storyworlds of these subgenres. 
Sometimes, however, the otherness depends on the introduction of elements of 
deviant science or technology, even the supernatural or paranormal. For 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

instance, in Randall Garrett’s series about detective Lord Darcy, magic works, 
and in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels we confront a world in which the 
Napoleonic Wars are fought with the aid of sentient dragons. A particularly 
original place is the storyworld of Jay Lake’s Mainspring (2007). The novel opens 
in New Haven on May 21, 1900, when the book’s protagonist and narrator, Het- 
hor Jacques, a young apprentice clockmaker, is awakened by the archangel 
Gabriel and told that he must find something called the Key Perilous and save 
the world, because “the Mainspring of the world winds down” and only Hethor 
“can set it right. Thus begin adventures in a truly original fictional world in 
which the Earth is literally part of a giant clockwork mechanism; indeed, the 
entire cosmos appears to be. Late in the novel, Hethor actually reaches the South 
Pole, where the axis on which the Earth turns emerges from the planet: 

The highway ended in a great circular meadow. In the center of the meadow a brass 
shaft erupted like a javelin stuck into the unyielding earth. It was about a quarter 
mile in diameter, and rose to vanish frost-rimmed into the dark sky above [....] 

It was a short walk across the poppy meadow to the shaft. Up close, the brass was 
like a wall. The curve was so large that it was shallow almost to the point of flatness. 
The shaft spun with a whirring noise that was much quieter than he had expected 
from the rumble he’d heard several days distant. Rotating rapidly, it stirred the air 
like a spring breeze. There must be a massive reduction gearing deep within the 
world, he realized, to translate that speed to the stately revolutions of the Earth in 
its orbit around the sun. Cold radiated off the surface before him, doubtless con- 
ducted downward from the immense length of the metal that protruded into the 
long polar night not far above his head [297-301]. 

Kay Kenyon’s The Entire and the Rose, a sequence of four novels published 
between 2007 and 2010, will be my other example from this category. This series 
tells of first contact between Earth of the twenty-third century (the Rose) and 
another universe (the Entire). The latter is a geologically continuous so-called 
tunnel universe, whose sky is lit by a river of hery plasma known as the bright. 
It is described on Kenyon’s homepage as follows: 

A radial universe, the Entire is comprised of five primacies— the monumental lobes 
of the universe. In length, the primacies are on a galactic scale; in breadth, only 
several thousand miles wide. A primacy has no absolute length, degrading at times 
into the Empty Lands where geography is distorted in space-time. Branching from 
one side of each primacy are the smaller minorals. Narrow and deserted valleys, the 
minorals are like root hairs on a giant tuber. At the tips of some minorals scholars 
attempt to observe other universes, for the Entire by its cosmography tends to burrow 
into the multiverse. Smaller still than a minoral are the nascences. These small 
canyons grow out of the sides of the minorals but are unstable and shunned. 

The storm walls enclose the primacy, the minoral and the nascence. These turbu- 
lent arms of the Entire appear as dark and stationary tidal waves. Each primacy has 
a great river along one wall. In all primacies, it is called the River Nigh. The core of 
the radial universe is the Sea of Arising, wellspring of the River Nigh. Above it hovers 
the floating city of the Tarig and the Magisterium, called the Ascendancy. 

A strange place indeed, the Entire, without planets or stars, in a dimension 
parallel to our own, originally engineered by the powerful Tarig, and filled with 

5. Places of Alterity in Science Fiction (McKinney) 


numerous species somehow copied from our own universe, including ancient 
Earth. Kenyon has produced a series which teems with numerous kinds of alter- 
ity, of which the highly original place manifest in the Entire is only the most 

Turning to cinema, in Gary Ross’s Pleasantville (1998), Pleasantville is a 
small town in an American television sitcom of the 1950s. During the film, 
while reruns of the program are on television, two teenagers from the present, 
a brother and sister named David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese With- 
erspoon), end up inexplicably and literally trapped in the sitcom world. This 
film is in many ways a study of the effects of alterity. David and Jennifer are 
prime examples of Others. Because of their backgrounds, values, and desires, 
they do not fit into the environment they have been thrust into. The world of 
the sitcom is, however, also a place of alterity for the twins— and percipients 
of the film. One striking visual aspect of the movie is the way that, when the 
siblings arrive in Pleasantville, they are shown, in accordance with the visual 
format of the TV program, in black-and-white. As the story develops, color 
gradually begins to appear in the fictional universe of the program and on the 
screen of the movie. This reflects, and is symbolic of, changes to the characters 
and social structures of the fictional town. Peelings and emotions seep into the 
lives of characters (including David and Jennifer) along with color. Alterity has 
quite literally affected the nature of the world, changing it from a place of black- 
and-white into a place filled with colors. 

There are many ways a storyteller can create a memorable place. One is 
by the accumulation of myriad and distinct details about the storyworld: the 
more details percipients are given of a fictional place, and the more explicit 
they are, the more real and alive it can seem. This brings up the special nature 
of science fiction texts. When we encounter fictional worlds (all fictional worlds, 
not just transmimetic ones) we must work to make those worlds real. No work 
of fiction, no matter how detailed, can ever provide all the data about a fictional 
universe. Readers and viewers are necessarily presented with incomplete places. 
Ontological gaps are significant in all fiction, and are, in fact, considered by 
some scholars to be a defining feature of fiction itself. As Lubomir Dolezel says, 
“A necessary consequence of the fact that fictional worlds are human constructs 
is their incompleteness.”^^ Alan Palmer tells us, “storyworlds differ ontologically 
from the real world because they are incomplete [....] No discourse could ever 
be long enough to say in its story all that could be said about the whole story- 
world.” As a result. Palmer continues, “fiction is necessarily incomplete and 
full of blanks where nothing is said about a part of the storyworld and gaps 
where something but not everything is said.”“ This is especially pertinent with 
respect to SP, when the storyworld is set two hundred (or two thousand) years 
in the future, on the surface of Mars, in another galaxy, or even further afield 
from the everyday world. The gaps in a storyworld must be filled in by percip- 
ients as they follow the story. This is usually done according to what Marie- 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

Louise Ryan, theorizing from a possible-worlds perspective, calls the “principle 
of minimal departure. By this, Ryan refers to the manner in which we per- 
cipients of fiction automatically assume, unless told or shown otherwise, that 
a given fictional universe is identical to the actual universe. The default setting, 
so to speak, for understanding any world, even fictional ones, is everyday reality. 
The Montreal of Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan novels, the Los Angeles of 
Michael Mann’s film Collateral (2004), and the Tokyo of Barry Eisler’s John 
Rain thrillers are identical to cities that exist in reality — except for differences 
that are explicitly spelled out in the fiction itself. Cats, dogs, penguins, London, 
Bangkok, and goldfish are the same in fact and fiction, except when we are 
specifically informed that this is not the case. 

Gaps and blanks are especially obvious with respect to science-fictional 
(and fantasy) worlds, because clearly the principle of minimal departure cannot 
always be applied, even theoretically, to an SF universe — because there may be 
no analog in reality to serve as a template for constructing the fictional world. 
We have no basis for deciding the content of those parts of a storyworld that 
do not correspond to the actual one. Nevertheless, although we may have no 
method to flesh out the social, political, or cultural aspects of a fictional society 
of the future, or determine the personality characteristics of extraterrestrial 
beings, we usually can safely assume that basic logical and natural laws still 
function in a normal manner. Gravity and the law of the excluded middle will 
remain as they are in everyday experience, water will still be H^O, and fish will 
continue to swim in it. 

I trust the works discussed above are sufficient to establish the importance 
of places of alterity in transmimetic fiction. Many more examples could be sup- 
plied. But one may ask: what does all this have to do with predicting the future? 

Note that it is not the characters or plots of transmimetic fiction which 
are of interest in examining SF and prediction. Nor is it the details of particular 
discoveries or inventions, or precise shape of social or cultural developments. 
One does not read science fiction to chart the exact path to the future, or find 
out the details of tomorrow. What transmimetic fiction can deal with, often 
better than traditional, non-fictional futurology, are qualitative aspects of the 
future. SF can explore what sort of place tomorrow may be to live in. Conse- 
quently, the kind of alterity that times to come may hold is one of the most 
important issues to consider. 

Of course, all storyworlds depict places; and, being fictional, all these imag- 
inary places are to some degree foreign or alien to percipients. Even the most 
mundane realistic novel or movie presents a place at some distance from our 
own world, if only through the imaginary characters that populate it. But trans- 
mimetic worlds are distant in a qualitatively important way, because of the 
nature and degree of their alterity. 

More specifically, reading stories focusing on the otherness of place pro- 
vides a way to mitigate — to some extent — the failure of imagination Clarke 

5. Places of Alterity in Science Fiction (McKinney) 


warned of in Profiles of the Future (1962), by supplying fictional scenarios we 
ourselves did not, indeed could not, imagine. SF shows options and alternatives 
which we would never have thought about, and it can, at best, make us ask if 
we want such options, if we desire those alternatives. Transmimetic fiction takes 
us to places that may not be precisely the places that actually lie in our future, 
but their very alterity can help us learn how to confront the unexpected and 
unanticipated, which the future is guaranteed to hold. From this perspective, 
the more Otherness involved, the better. 

This is closely related to what philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum says that 
the best literature does by allowing us to experience the unexpected and con- 
tingent. Nussbaum believes that the way literary fiction deals with contingency 
can have special significance for its readers. 

The structure of [certain] novels [...] has built into it an emphasis on the significance, 
for human life, of what simply happens, of surprise, of reversal [....] Proust tells us 
that one of the primary aims of literary art is to show us moments in which habit 
is cut through by the unexpected, and to engender in the reader a similar upsurge 
of true, surprised feeling. The ability of their texts to give insight is seen by both 
[Henry James and Marcel Proust] to depend on this power to display such uncon- 
trolled events as if they matter to the characters, and to make them matter to the 
reader. And the Aristotelian conception holds that a correct understanding of the 
ways in which human aspirations to live well can be checked by uncontrolled events 
is in fact an important part of ethical understanding.^^ 

Although Nussbaum obviously speaks of fictional events, rather than imag- 
inary places, 1 hold that the confrontation with transmimetic places rich in 
unanticipated otherness can also contribute to the ethical understanding she 
refers to. Even here a large amount of alterity would he an advantage. 

Place, to be understood, is something that must be experienced, not just 
observed. Fiction allows for such experience. To understand what life in the 
future — on Earth, on other planets, among the stars— could be like, we must 
experience what that future life might he like as it is lived. Spending some time 
in a place is a good way to decide whether one wishes to spend even more time 
in that place. A strong emotional involvement with a work of fiction, an emo- 
tional immersion in a fictional universe, not only allows, but actually requires 
us to ask ourselves what it is about a particular fictional place that makes it 
attractive or disagreeable. Perhaps, if we like what we encounter, we will work 
toward translating it from the page or screen into reality. Fiorrific tomorrows 
are potentially just as valuable as utopias because one purpose in predicting 
disastrous futures is to ensure that they never come to pass. SF does not predict 
the future; it offers us alternatives from which we can choose those we most 
want to see realized, or avoided. 

Good science fiction transcends the real, mundane, everyday world where 
we find ourselves. It transports us to places of alterity and prompts us to ques- 
tion not only the otherness we find there, but also our own attitudes toward 
the Other. Good transmimetic fiction provokes me into asking what kinds of 


Part I: Cosmic Visions 

alterity will, can, or should exist in my own future. What sort of place might 
that future be? 

Just as it is impossible to consider life in the present without considering 
the context that life takes place in, it is impossible to seriously imagine life in 
the future without considering the context in which that life might play out. 
Experiencing fictional places of tomorrow reinforces the importance of such 
experiences. Because place always matters, then, so do the places of the future, 
and therefore so, too, do the places of science fiction. 


1. J. E. Malpas, Place and Experience: A Philosophical Topography (Cambridge: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1999), 13. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edi- 

2. Rich Horton, “The Year in Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2008,” The Year’s Best Sci- 
ence Fiction and Fantasy, 2009 Edition, ed. Horton ( [New York] : Prime Books, 2009), 9. 

3. Gary K. Wolfe, The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction 
(Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1979). Subsequent page references in the text 
are to this edition. 

4. Mark Rose, Alien Encounters: Anatomy of Science Fiction (Cambridge: Harvard 
University Press, 1981). 

5. Gwyneth Jones, “Riddles in the Dark,” The Profession of Science Fiction: Writers 
on their Craft and Ideas, ed. Maxim Jakubowski and Edward James (Houndmills, Bas- 
ingstoke and London: Macmillan, 1992), 176. 

6. Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a 
Literary Genre (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), 7-8. 

7. Garl D. Malmgren, Worlds Apart: Narratology of Science Fiction (Bloomington: 
Indiana University Press, 1991). Subsequent page references in the text are to this edi- 

8. Arthur C. Clarke, The City and the Stars, (1956; New York: Signet, 1957), 7. 

9. Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel (1954; New York: Signet, 1955), 8-9. 

10. Asimov, “Social Science Fiction,” Modern Science Fiction: Its Meaning and Its 
Future, ed. Reginald Bretnor, 1953, Second Edition (Chicago: Advent Publishers, 1979), 

11. Andrew M. Butler, “Metropolis (1926),” The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science 
Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders, Volume 3, ed. Gary Westfahl (West- 
port, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005), 1173. Note that although Butler gives a date of 1926 
for the movie, it did not actually have its premier until January, 1927. 

12. Scott Bukatman, Blade Runner (London: British Film Institute, 1997), 8-9. 

13. See Hal Glement [Harry Clement Stubbs], “WhirUgigWotld,” Astounding Science 
Fiction, 51 (June, 1953), 102-114. 

14. Frank Herbert, Dune (Philadelphia: Chilton Book Company, 1965), v. 

15. Brian W. Aldiss and David Wingrove, Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science 
Fiction (London: Victor Gollancz, 1986), 315. 

16. Joan Slonczewski, A Door into Ocean (New York: Avon, 1986). 

17. Pamela Sargent, “Introduction,” Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years, Sci- 
ence Fiction by Women from the 1970s to the 1990s, ed. Sargent (San Diego: Harvest/Har- 
court. Brace & Co., 1995), 12. 

18. David Langford, “Space Opera,” The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction 
and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders, Volume 2, 738. 

5. Places of Alterity in Science Fiction (McKinney) 


19. M. Keith Booker and Anne-Marie Thomas, The Science Fiction Flandbook (Chich- 
ester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 41. 

20. The original Star Trek series ran from 1966 to 1969. Subsequent TV series featuring 
some version of the starship Enterprise were Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) 
and Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005). There have also been eleven films (1979-2009) 
to which the vessel is central. Voyager is the main setting for Star Trek: Voyager (1995- 
2002) and space station Deep Space Nine for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999). 

21. John Milton, Paradise Lost, book 1, lines 254-255, Milton: Poetical Works, ed. 
Douglas Bush (London and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), 218. 

22. Jay Lake, Mainspring (New York: Tor, 2007), 3. Subsequent page references in 
the text are to this edition. 

23. Kay Kenyon, “The Universe Extras,” Kay Kenyon: The Entire and the Rose Quin- 
tet, at, accessed February 10, 
2010 . 

24. Lubomir Dolezel, Heterocosmica (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Uni- 
versity Press, 1998), 169. 

25. Alan Palmer, Fictional Minds (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 
2004), 34. 

26. See Marie-Louise Ryan, Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative The- 
ory (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), especially 31-47. 

27. Martha C. Nussbaum, Love’s Knowledge (New York and Oxford: Oxford University 
Press, 1990), 43-44. 

Part II : The Practice oe Prophecy 


Future City Tokyo: 
1909 and 2009 

Sharalyn Orbaugh 

The first time I saw Tokyo was thirty-five years ago, in 1975. 1 had arrived 
in Japan for the first time and the sights of the city passed before my eyes like 
a dream. Since then 1 have lived in Tokyo four times for a total of six years, 
always in different parts of the city, and when not living there 1 have visited 
innumerable times. It is a city that I love and know well. But every time 1 return 
to Tokyo after an absence of a few months, I have the same experience, more 
nightmare than dream: 1 attempt to return to a favorite restaurant or store, 
and arrive in the area to hnd it gone. This happens in any city, of course; but, 
unlike a visit back to San Francisco, where I might return to find that my favorite 
Korean barbeque is now a Spanish restaurant, in Tokyo my favorite haunts 
tend to disappear completely. Often the whole block has been razed and some- 
thing entirely new put in its place. 

Whenever 1 experience the extreme evanescence of Tokyo 1 recall the words 
of Antonio Sant’Elia (1888-1916), an architect allied with the Italian Futurist 
movement: “The House Will Last For Less Time Than We Will. Each Gen- 
eration Must Build Its Own City.”' Perhaps more truly than any large city on 
Earth, Tokyo has been built anew by each generation. Since becoming the capital 
of the newly unified Japanese nation in 1869, Tokyo has been destroyed and 
rebuilt numerous times. ^ While most destruction was by no means planned — 
the result of fires, earthquakes (and resulting fires), high explosive and incen- 
diary bombing in World War II, and the like — the consequence has been that 
each generation has had a chance to rebuild Tokyo after seeing it destroyed. 

The connections between Japan and Italian Euturists go deeper than a for- 
tuitous resonance between Sant’Elia’s vision of the evanescent city and the mate- 
rial history of Tokyo. Both nations were “late modernizers” (Germany was a 
third) and late to unify as coherent nation states: Italy proclaimed itself a state 
in 1861 and Japan in 1868. Richard Humphreys describes the early years of Italy’s 
statehood, the circumstances that conditioned the emergence of futurism: 


6. Future City Toyko (Orbaugh) 


The financial circumstances of the country overall were almost continuously parlous 
and the heavy taxes necessary to balance the national budget created enormous dis- 
content, especially in the poorer areas of the south.... By the 1880s, its problems 
exacerbated by a global depression, Italy was facing widespread poverty.... In the 
sphere of international policy the government began a period of colonial expansion 
in Africa, hoping to achieve a nationalist consensus and to extend markets for the 
growing home economy. Although both aspirations were severely limited by the 
sheer range and power of the imperial interests of Britain, France and Germany, it 
was of utmost importance for Italians to demonstrate on a world stage that they were 
part of the “aristocracy” of European nations.’ 

If you change the name of the country to Japan, substitute “poorer areas 
of [Japan’s] north” for “poorer areas of [Italy’s] south,” and change the desig- 
nation of the colonized area from “Africa” to “East Asia,” the description holds 
perfectly true for Japan in roughly the same period. Both nations embraced 
emerging technologies to modernize quickly, to avoid being taken advantage 
of by the already developed countries of the world that already had a significant 
colonial and/or imperial presence around the globe. 

By the early twentieth century, both Italy and Japan had used military 
might and technology to carve out colonial interests of their own: Eritrea, 
Somalia, and Libya for Italy; Taiwan, Korea, and Karafuto for Japan. (After 
World War 1 both countries expanded their colonial influence to further terri- 
tories.) And, just as Italian Futurists saw their artistic-cum-political philosophy 
as a tool in proving that Italy was part of the “aristocracy” of European nations, 
Japanese artists, poets, and novelists of the same period searched for tools to 
make evident to the world Japan’s status as a worthy member of the global 
family of developed nations. 

Italian Futurism began in 1909 with F. T. Marinetti’s “The Founding Man- 
ifesto of Futurism,” published on the front page of the February 20th issue of 
the French daily newspaper Le Figaro. Less than a month later one of Japan’s 
most respected authors, Mori Ogai^ (who also happened to be Surgeon- General 
of the Army), had translated it into Japanese and published it in the journal 
Subaru.^ Marinetti’s manifesto was followed swiftly by many others, as painters, 
sculptors, poets, architects, and other artists issued Futurist manifestos of their 
own. The movement was vigorous in Italy (and to some extent France and 
England) well into World War I, and continued in a somewhat attenuated form 
until the end of the 1930s. 

The growth of the Futurist movement in Japan was slower, though many 
artists, poets, and novelists were influenced by it in the years after 1909, even 
if they did not call themselves Futurists. In 1921 a young man named Hirato 
Renkichi handed out a pamphlet entitled “Manifesto of the Japanese Futurist 
Movement” {Nihon miraiha sengen undo— Mouvement futuriste japonais) in 
Tokyo’s Hibiya Park.'’ Because he died the following year, Hirato himself was 
not an influential figure in Japan’s Futurist movement, but writers like Inagaki 
Taruho, poets like Kanbara Tai, and artists like Okada Tatsuo identified them- 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

selves as Futurists and produced art and literary works in line with Futurist 
principles. In Japan, Futurism’s heyday was the 1920s and 1930s, and it contin- 
ued even after World War 11. 

Futurism was characterized by a vigorous, masculine, revolutionary atti- 
tude toward all aspects of modern life. It included a valorization of violence — 
when in the service of the production of modern goods or destruction of those 
things that were passe^— and of all that was bright, electric, powerful, and fast. 
A typical passage from Marinetti’s “Founding Manifesto” reads: 

[W]e will sing of the vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards blazing with 
violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; 
factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride 
rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a glitter of knives; adventurous 
steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the 
tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight 
of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners....* 

As this passage makes clear, Marinetti’s interests were both aesthetic and 
social/political. He valorizes as beautiful the signs of urban progress, economic 
might, and transportation — which were also, of course, tools of imperialism 
and colonialist expansion. While Marinetti never to my knowledge mentions 
colonialism explicitly, his “Founding Manifesto” proclaims: “We will glorify 
war — the world’s only hygiene — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture 
of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for women. 

Undeniably, investment in war and the material tools of imperialism (arse- 
nals, ships, trains) had paid off well for both Italy and Japan by 1909. As noted, 
both had established themselves as colonial powers by that time, and both had 
shown that they could muster effective military forces. In Italy, any enthusiasm 
for war among the masses that Futurism may have inspired was checked, at 
least in part, by the all-too-close-to-home realities of World War I. Although 
the movement in Italy continued after that war, several of its most important 
figures had died in battle, and the political scene was drastically changed by the 
rise of Mussolini. “ 

In contrast, even in the 1920s and 1930s Japan had little reason to rethink 
the glorification of war advocated by Futurists. Its three international military 
ventures since unification — the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, the Russo- 
Japanese War of 1904-1905, and Japan’s participation on the side of the Allies 
in World War 1, 1914-1917, which involved routing the Germans from colonial 
holdings in the South Pacific and China and patrolling those areas— had been 
successful at stimulating the economy, unifying the populace under a banner 
of patriotism (to some extent), and indubitably adding precious land and nat- 
ural resources to Japan’s possessions through acquisition of colonies. Japanese 
readers of either Marinetti’s or the “Japanese Futurist Manifesto” had little rea- 
son to question the advocacy of war as an instrument for demonstrating a 
nation’s power and legitimacy. 

6. Future City Toyko (Orbaugh) 


One must note, however, that for Marinetti and his fellow Italian Futurists 
not everything was about war and grand national projects: 

Futurism is grounded in the complete renewal of human sensibility brought about 
by the great discoveries of science. Those people who today make use of the telegraph, 
the telephone, the phonograph, the train, the bicycle, the motorcycle, the automobile, 
the ocean liner, the dirigible, the aeroplane, the cinema ... do not realize that these 
various means of communication, transportation and information have a decisive 
influence on their psyches." 

Here, as in several of his manifestos, Marinetti links the changes brought 
about by modernity to changes in the human psyche: changes in the way men 
and women experience and interpret their world, the way they experience and 
interpret themselves. He writes frequently about both psychological and phys- 
iological issues, as they are tied to the new aesthetic pleasures arising from 
(Futurist) modernity: 

A new beauty is born today from the chaos of the new contradictory sensibilities 
that we Futurists will substitute for the former beauty.... Its essential elements are: 
hygienic forgetfulness, hope, desire, controlled force, speed, light, willpower, order, 
discipline, method; a feeling for the great city; the aggressive optimism that results 
from the cult of muscles and sport ... the passion for success, the keenest instinct for 
setting records, the enthusiastic imitation of electricity and the machine....'^ 

The cult of muscles and sport and the optimism arising therefrom would 
certainly have resonated with Japanese mass culture in the 1910s, 1920s, and 
1930s, as physical fitness and eugenics were then national obsessions.'^ Hope 
and desire linked to “controlled speed,” “order, discipline, [and] method” were 
also explicit elements of the Japanese drive to equal (or surpass) other mod- 
ernized nations of the world. But the elements of Futurism focused on here are 
the “feeling for the great city” and “enthusiastic imitation of electricity and the 

Because Marinetti believed that Futurism should involve all areas of 
human life, he sought an architect who could extend his visions to the design 
of a new “great city,” attuned to a human lifestyle that incorporated “imitation 
of electricity and the machine.” He found young Milanese architect Antonio 
Sant’Elia, whose drawings of power plants, train stations-cum-airports, and 
other imaginative cityscapes encapsulated the Futurist agenda for constructing 
an appropriate urban environment to enable the desired influences on the 
human psyche. 

In August of 1914, Sant’Elia published the “Manifesto of Futurist Archi- 
tecture” in Lacerba; it was the first and fullest expression of the Futurist vision 
of the city, “which should be the immediate and faithful projection of ourselves” 
(160), “an architecture whose reason for existence can be found solely in the 
unique conditions of modern life” (169) rather than relying on stultifying and 
outmoded forms from earlier generations whose needs were entirely different. 
Sant’Elia’s vision of the modern city promoted a move away from old static 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

ways of inhabiting the city to a new dynamic interplay between the city’s com- 
mercial and transportation nodes and the people who used them to move and 
consume : 

We have lost our predilection for the monumental, the heavy, the static, and we have 
enriched our sensibility with a taste for the light, the practical, the ephemeral and the 
swift. We no longer feel ourselves to be the men of the cathedrals, the palaces and 
the podiums. We are the men of the great hotels, the railway stations, the immense 
streets, colossal ports, covered markets, luminous arcades, straight roads and benefi- 
cial demolitions. 

We must invent and rebuild the Futurist city like an immense and tumultuous 
shipyard, agile, mobile and dynamic in every detail; and the Futurist house must be 
like a gigantic machine.... It must soar up on the brink of a tumultuous abyss: the 
street will no longer lie like a doormat at ground level, but will plunge many storeys 
down into the earth, embracing the metropolitan traffic, and will be linked up for 
necessary interconnections by metal gangways and swift-moving pavements. (170) 

To achieve this ambitious vision, “that is to transform the world of things 
into a direct projection of the world of the [contemporary] spirit” (171), San- 
t’Elia, like Marinetti and other Futurists before him, called for destruction of 
old historic buildings, monuments, bridges and houses to make way for struc- 
tures attuned to modern needs. 

In Italy, with its centuries-old architecture that monumentalized a long 
and rich cultural history, such sentiments were near blasphemy. In a Japanese 
context, however, it would prove less shocking. When the Meiji government 
took power in 1868, one of its first tasks was to build a capital city worthy of a 
modern nation state. Tokyo, the newly designated national capital, had many 
mansions, temples, and other large edifices, but these were built of wood and 
hardly seemed impressive when compared with the stone and brick structures 
of western cities. To create a cityscape to equal those of other powerful nations, 
the Meiji government imported architects and architectural techniques from 
abroad to build new structures in keeping with European standards. Conve- 
niently, a terrible fire in 1872 wiped out a key section of the city, near the new 
imperial palace grounds, and this devastated area was used to create the Tokyo 
train station (brick), the commercial and government buildings of the 
Marunouchi area between the station and the palace (brick, stone, and con- 
crete), and the Ginza, a brightly lit area of modern shops and arcades (brick). 

The fact was that in Japan natural disasters could be counted on to dev- 
astate the urban landscape periodically and provide a clean slate for urban plan- 
ning— for new architectural ways of expressing new understandings of 
subjectivity. As William Tsutsui puts it, “Japan ... lies directly in the crosshairs 
of almost every destructive power Mother Nature can command):] ... earth- 
quakes and volcanoes, typhoons and tidal waves, floods and landslides.”'^ When 
the Great Kanto Earthquake flattened much of Tokyo in 1923, some of the most 
iconic of the Meiji-period (1868-1911) western-style structures were demol- 
ished. According to Andre Sorensen, the earthquake left “over 44 per cent of 

6. Future City Toyko (Orbaugh) 


the urban area of Tokyo destroyed by fire and some 73.8 per cent of all house- 
holds affected.”*'’ After the earthquake the desperate need for housing meant 
that some areas of the city were rebuilt hastily and with little thought, but others 
were reconceptualized to provide further verticality, speed, convenience and 

A generation later, during the intensive bombing runs of the Allies in the 
final years of World War II, great swaths of Tokyo were flattened. In one night — 
March 9, 1945 — 2000 tons of incendiary bombs were dropped on Tokyo, lev- 
eling sixteen square miles of the city. At least 80,000 people were killed outright, 
and untold numbers left homeless. In the next ten days the Americans dropped 
more than 9000 tons of bombs (2 million individual bombs) on Tokyo, Nagoya, 
Osaka, and Kobe, in a total of more than 1500 sorties. By war’s end, sixty-five 
percent of Tokyo’s residences had been destroyed by fires caused by incendiary 

Again, much reconstruction after the war was done in desperate haste, but 
again an opportunity had been provided for city planners and entrepreneurs 
to remake the city, and again they promoted ideals of verticality, enhanced 
speed and efficiency, and connectivity — unintentionally following the Futurist 
vision.'® The Tokyo subway and train network is the most extensive, complete, 
complex, and reliably functional in the world, and the city boasts numerous 
commercial and business areas including miles of underground shop-lined 
streets used by pedestrians to access skyscrapers, train stations and subway lines 
without having to contend with cars on the streets above them. There are, as 
well, numerous underground roads and elevated streets and highways. The city 
has “soared up” and “plunged down” as Sant’Elia advocated — not, of course, 
because of any conscious desire to fulfill his vision, but to create a livable envi- 
ronment for one of the most densely populated areas of the world. (The current 
population of the Tokyo conurbation is about 35 million people; that of all of 
Canada is about 34 million.) 

Tokyo is an amazing city to look at and move through. It is not surprising 
that the cityscape is featured prominently in Japanese visual culture, both “high” 
art and popular culture. In the remainder of this chapter, moving ahead a cen- 
tury or so from 1909, 1 will consider some of the most striking representations 
of Tokyo in recent Japanese anime films and TV series, focusing on how the 
city is characterized in ways that are remarkably similar to stated ideals of 
Futurism: body and machine working together as part of the city (that is, the 
emergence of the cyborg)'®; the city itself as a huge dynamic computer-like net- 
work, with humans acting as sentient nodes within it; love of speed and visual 
technophilia; the insistent verticality of the city; and, finally and primarily, the 
“hygiene of war” and destruction, specihcally the destruction of Tokyo. 

Science fiction and adventure stories about war have been popular in Japan 
since the early 20th century, but depictions of urban destruction are more fre- 
quent after World War II, no doubt because of the nationally shared experience 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

of nuclear holocaust in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the intensive explo- 
sive and incendiary bombing of other cities. The war provided the Japanese 
with a vivid repertory of images and scenarios of destruction that were incor- 
porated into literary, artistic, and popular culture narratives. One of the most 
interesting things about these narratives, however, is that they rarely depict a 
simple dichotomy of evil destroyers and innocent victims. 

Of course, Japan is not alone in making movies that depict a city’s destruc- 
tion, but it is certainly among the leaders in producing such films. As cinema 
historian Carlos Clarens comments, “Japan, the only nation on earth to have 
actually suffered from atomic warfare, has become the world’s foremost pro- 
ducer of filmic holocausts.”^® More recently, in a study of Godzilla, anime critic 
and theorist Susan Napier comments: “[I]n my course on the ‘Cinema of the 
Apocalypse’ 1 have found the largest number of apocalyptic films to be produced 
either in Japan or America — perhaps not surprising given our shared heritage 
of the atomic bomb.”^' Certainly any fan of anime has noticed a propensity for 
showing battles and destruction, particularly in science fiction anime. Anima- 
tion is, after all, the perfect medium depicting epic destruction since it can 
freely show events from any angle and at any scale. 

My discussion will concentrate on a cluster of anime films made between 
eighty and one hundred years after the beginnings of the Futurist movement, 
particularly Kidd keisatsu patoreibaa {Mobile Police Patlabor, usually known in 
English as Patlabor 1, 1989)^^ and Rojin Z (1991),^® two films that have received 
relatively little scholarly attention despite their positive critical reception in 
Japan and beyond. But before in-depth discussion of those films, some context 
is necessary. 1 must therefore mention some other anime productions made 
around the same time that are integral to any discussion of the destruction of 
Tokyo: Akira (1988) and the TV series Shin seiki Evangelion {Neon Genesis Evan- 
gelion, 1995). 

Akira, directed by Otomo Katsuhiro, based on his manga of the same 
name, was one of the first anime films to be well received widely outside Japan. 

A film that celebrates violence and destruction with tremendous narrative and 
visual energy, it opens with the annihilation of Tokyo by a nuclear-like blast, 
caused by a boy with psychic powers named Akira. Thirty-one years later, when 
Neo-Tokyo has been built on the ruins of the original city, it is destroyed again 
by another devastating blast, this time caused by a boy with psychic powers 
named Tetsuo. Although the film ends with the city once again in utter ruins, 
it implies that the cycle will only continue, since Tetsuo with his strange powers 
is still alive. 

I recall seeing Akira for the first time in Berkeley in 1992, and, reeling out 
of the theater, 1 felt both frustrated by the lack of any reasonable teleology to 
the story and, at the same time, strangely exhilarated by the astonishingly 
detailed depiction of the violence and destruction. 1 am no Futurist, but there 
is a definite thrill to be had from seeing a city explode into atoms, twice, not 

6. Future City Toyko (Orbaugh) 


to mention the love of speed shown through repeated scenes of motorcycles 
ridden through the half-ruined cityscape by the biker gang protagonists. Akira’s 
worldwide popularity suggests that those Futurist virtues were appreciated by 
many other viewers as well. 

In 1995, a brilliant television series directed by Anno Hideaki called Neon 
Genesis Evangelion allowed viewers to witness the destruction of a city called 
Dai-san Tokyo (Tokyo Mark 3) and other urban centers nearly every week. 
The plot of Evangelion begins with the information that Earth was nearly 
destroyed in 1999 by a disaster known as Second Impact — supposedly a giant 
meteor that hit Antarctica, but really the first attack by huge alien machines 
called Angels. When the narrative begins, fourteen years later, Angels are back 
to threaten Earth again. The only hope against the Angels is huge mecha-suits,^*’ 
called Evas, piloted by 14-year-old children: only those born around the time 
of the original disaster — who therefore incorporate a bit of the Angels in them- 
selves— have the powers necessary to fight the Angels. The headquarters of the 
Evas is in Tokyo Mark 3 (built on or near the site of the earlier Tokyo), an 
enormous city that remains underground almost all the time for security pur- 
poses, but rises above ground once a day at 5 pm, at which time some occupants 
take up a slightly distant position in the countryside to watch the emergence 
of the ultra-modern, ultra-vertical city, skyscrapers gleaming in the setting sun. 
In this sense, Tokyo Mark 3 embodies the Euturist ideal of a vertical city beyond 
Sant’Elia’s wildest dreams. 

One key feature of Evangelion’ s narrative is insistent attention to the inter- 
play between the electro-mechanical computerized suits and the children who 
must “synch” with them to succeed as pilot-warriors.^^ This, too, resonates 
strongly with Futurism. As Humphreys notes, “The pilot was in many ways the 
ultimate Futurist figure — defying gravity and earthbound instincts as he 
became ‘part of the machine,’ aspiring to a physical and spiritual freedom 
absolutely at one with the existential organs of the movement.”^* And when 
justifying his vision for the new Futurist city, Sant’Elia wrote, “As if we who 
are accumulators and generators of movement, with all our added mechanical 
limbs, with all the noise and speed of our life, could live in streets built for the 
needs of men four, five or six centuries ago” (169). Sant’Elia here combines the 
notion of the cyborg with new forms of life in the contemporary city, a com- 
bination integral to the narrative of Evangelion. 

Both Akira and Evangelion fit a pattern seen in other Japanese TV series 
and films in which Tokyo is destroyed, in the sense that the destruction is never 
absolute. After the devastation of Tokyo at the beginning of Akira, we see people 
living on, building a new city, which is destroyed in its turn, but still some peo- 
ple (or posthuman entities) live on. The same happens in Evangelion: after the 
Second Impact (which happens before the story starts), surviving members of 
humankind pick themselves up, rebuild a new and better Tokyo, and prepare 
to battle the enemy. At the end of the series the Angels appear to have won and 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

humanity appears to be eradicated ... except for our young male protagonist, 
Shinji, and his female counterpart Asuka, who live on, perhaps to rebuild Tokyo 
Mark 4.^^ 

This pattern of depicting widespread destruction of buildings and monu- 
ments with the survival of (at least some) people is repeated in Otomo’s 1991 
anime film Rojin Z. Like his earlier film Akira, Rojin Z was critically acclaimed 
in its North American release, but the latter has received less scholarly attention 
than the former. 

Rojin Z opens with an old man, Takazawa Kojiro, lying alone in his futon 
on the floor of his rooms in an old-fashioned Japanese apartment house: a 
structure of wood and plaster, with sliding paper doors, no air conditioning, 
and only primitive laundry facilities, out on the narrow balcony. His volunteer 
caretaker, a young, pretty nurse-in-training named Haruko, comes in to feed, 
wash, diaper, and comfort the old man, whom she calls Jiichan (“Grandpa”).^” 

Without the knowledge of Jiichan or Haruko, however, Jiichan has been 
volunteered by his surviving family for a new program, which involves inserting 
old people into mecha-suit-like beds, the Z-OOls, which monitor their every 
physical function, automatically feed them and take away wastes, and provide 
entertainment with four computer screens at once. Haruko is horrified when 
she sees Jiichan in the machine bed, with connecting wires penetrating his body 
down to the cellular level She tells representatives of the Ministry of Health 
and Welfare, which is promoting the project, that old people cannot be con- 
sidered cared for if there is no human love, no human touch accompanying 
that care. The officials brush her concerns aside. 

But soon Jiichan — completely helpless and paralyzed though he remains— 
has fused so completely with his computerized machine-bed that messages indi- 
cating his distress are sent automatically and repeatedly to Haruko’s computer. 
She and her nursing school friends try to rescue Jiichan, falling afoul of the 
people who have developed the Z-001 prototype. But the Z-001, propelled by 
the old man’s incoherent distress, manages to stand up and break out of the 
hospital, escaping with Haruko back to Jiichan’s original apartment. 

The main promoter of this new cyber-bed is stunned — it should have no 
such capabilities. The man who designed the computer components and soft- 
ware, however, seems less surprised. We eventually discover that he had been 
asked to design a weapon, and the development of the cyber-bed — meant to 
counter Japan’s biggest challenge, a rapidly aging population — was for him just 
a cover for developing a cyber-weapon. The bed is fulfilling his hopes for it as 
a machine that can learn from its environment and absorb whatever will 
enhance its strength. 

Eventually, with the help of a number of bedridden old men at the hospital 
where she works— all accomplished computer hackers, since they have nothing 
better to do with their time — Haruko encourages the cyber-bed (now fused 
with Jiichan) to take on the benevolent persona of Jiichan’s late wife, Haru. The 

6. Future City Toyko (Orbaugh) 


bed’s Haru persona asks him what he wants in his wife’s affectionate voice, and 
he replies that he wants to return to the beach at Kamakura, where they had 
once been happy. 

Accordingly, the cyber-bed — now upright and looking more than ever like 
a mecha-suit — begins speeding and slamming its way through Tokyo, heading 
south towards Kamakura. With the army and police all trying to stop it, it is 
forced to take unusual routes, straight through several Tokyo neighborhoods. 
As it moves through houses and larger structures, the cyber-bed takes on hunks 
of metal, fragments of splintered wood, wheels from a truck, an arm from a 
bulldozer, and so on, until it is huge and unstoppable. The bed gradually 
becomes a grotesque amalgam of numerous constitutive elements of Tokyo 
architecture and vehicles. When it finally reaches the beach, the evil technology 
meant to turn the bed into a weapon overpowers the benevolent wife persona, 
and Haruko must climb to the top of the massive structure to destroy its main 
computer unit. After she has successfully done this, we see Jiichan’s cat, which 
had earlier gotten caught up into the bed-machine, leaping out with a computer 
component in its mouth and running away. Jiichan and Haruko return to 
Tokyo, where Jiichan is now being cared for at a hospital for elderly people, 
with Haruko looking after him. The film’s happy ending is disturbed, however, 
by the sound of horrific destruction approaching the hospital window, where 
Haruko, Jiichan and all the other nurses and patients soon gather. Finally, break- 
ing through the buildings adjacent to the hospital, we see the Kamakura 
Daibutsu — the statue of the Great Buddha^'— recognizable, but also incorpo- 
rating random bits of the structures and machines it encountered on its way to 
Tokyo, calling out to Jiichan in his late wife’s cheery voice. She has come to 
collect him again. The screen goes blank to the sounds of screaming and con- 
tinued destruction, much closer now, while wacky, clownish music creates a 
carnivalesque atmosphere. 

For purposes of this discussion, the most important scene is the one early 
in the film when the bed slams its way through the houses, shops and buildings 
of a quiet area of Tokyo, destroying and absorbing all in its path. The most sig- 
nificant aspect of the cityscape in this scene is its old-fashioned nature, much 
like the apartment where we first encounter Jiichan. The Tokyo depicted (and 
destroyed) is composed of the elements of the cityscape that remain unchanged 
from the 1930s or before, embodying a philosophy of life that focused on the 
personal interaction of neighbors within their comfortable neighborhood: low 
wooden buildings with heavy tile roofs, old-fashioned, somewhat dingy shop- 
ping arcades featuring pachinko parlors next to vegetable stands, and so on. 
This is not the vertical, technologically interconnected city; it is the old Tokyo, 
the passe Tokyo, the slow, relaxed Tokyo, the kind of place that Japanese Futur- 
ists would most despise. The fact that the animators so lovingly depicted the 
details of the cyber-bed’s annihilation of this Tokyo is therefore suggestive: the 
speedy, powerful, high-tech machine triumphs over the old and sluggish. In a 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

standard Hollywood film, the machine-bed and company that built it would, 
in the end, most likely be punished for destroying the idealized, nostalgic ele- 
ments of the city, but this film does not end so simply. Although it seems for 
a moment that Jiichan and the old life he represents have won (albeit with the 
high-tech help of his cyber-bed’s wifely persona and the expertise of elderly 
hackers), the film ends with the simultaneous destruction and transformation 
of one of Japan’s few old, impressive monuments— the Great Buddha. Surely 
Futurists would have been pleased to see its deformed status, and to see the 
“passe-ist” monument assisting in the joyful destruction of the “passe-ist” ele- 
ments of the city. 

A less carnivalesque and therefore potentially more potent version of this 
narrative trope is found in the 1989 anime film, Patlabor 1, directed by Oshii 
Mamoru, based on the manga by Yuki Masami (screenplay by ltd Kazunori). 
Oshii later directed several successful and critically acclaimed science fiction 
films: the anime movies Kokaku kiddtai {Ghost in the Shell, 1995) and Kokaku 
kidotai: Inosensu {Innocence, 2004),’^ and the live-action film Avalon (2001). In 
Patlabor 1 we see many of the elements that made his later films so powerful: a 
penchant for philosophical meditations on fundamental questions of ontology 
and technology; a high tolerance for slow-moving, lyrical sequences with little 
dialog; references to Christianity, Buddhism, and other philosophical traditions 
to add depth to the plot; and a brilliant combination of depictions of lovingly 
detailed, energetic, technophilic action with depictions of lovingly detailed, 
slow, human-level interactions. 

Like Star Trek, Patlabor has become a multi-genre narrative universe, with 
this film as just one of its incarnations.^^ To fully appreciate the film, therefore, 
one should be familiar with other narrative products of the Patlabor universe. 
Even without such knowledge, however, this film has several elements that 
stand alone and make it a significant contribution to science fiction cinema. 

In the near-future Patlabor universe, many jobs, especially heavy con- 
struction and the like, are handled by large, high-tech mecha-suit machines 
called “labors,” each piloted by one human. Because the labors are so large and 
powerful, they are capable of terrible violence and destruction if misused. 
Therefore, an elite squad of police has been formed and equipped with even 
more powerful mecha-suit machines, known as Patlabors,^^ each piloted by one 
human, to control or to battle errant labors. 

The film opens with a suicide : against a background of a gorgeous poly- 
chrome sunset with the skyscraper-filled skyline of Tokyo silhouetted against 
it, a man stands on the top of a huge, partly constructed building and, smiling 
scornfully, steps off it, falling into Tokyo Bay. His body is never recovered. 

The site of this event is called the “Babylon Project”— a massive develop- 
ment in Tokyo Bay that will eventually create hundreds of hectares of reclaimed 
land for residences, shops and offices. Its flagship building is “the Ark,” the 
partly completed building from which the man jumped. The next sequence of 

6. Future City Toyko (Orbaugh) 


the film, intercut with the credits, shows a battle against a rogue labor, which 
ends with victorious soldiers opening the labor only to find that it was unpiloted 
as it ran berserk. 

We learn that in the last two months there have been twenty-two such 
incidents, wherein labors have gone berserk, ignoring the attempts of their 
pilots to control them. The Patlabor squad investigates the source of the trouble, 
and finds that a new operating system had been recently installed in all the 
labors that had gone rogue, and that the man who had devised the new system, 
E. Hoba (a near homophone of Jehovah as pronounced in Japanese),’^ was the 
man who committed suicide. The suspicion arises that there is a bug in the new 
computer software, or possibly that Hoba intentionally programmed the new 
software to cause the labors to misbehave under specific conditions. While 
some members of the Patlabor squad attempt to figure out what triggers the 
rogue behavior, a regular policeman who often works with them, Detective 
Matsui, goes with a young police colleague to each of the former residences of 
Hoba — who had moved twenty-seven times in two years— to try to figure out 
the motive for his antisocial behavior. 

Eventually a young Patlabor squad member, Shinohara Asuma, whose 
father happens to own the company that produced the new operating system, 
deduces that it is wind blowing through the spaces between high-rise buildings 
and whistling at a particular frequency that causes the labors to go berserk. So 
far the incidents have been confined to a few areas of the city, where high-rise 
buildings cluster particularly densely. But Shinohara realizes that a higher veloc- 
ity wind, blowing through the nearly-completed Ark, will cause a high-pitched 
sound at a frequency that will send all of the tens of thousands of labors in 
Tokyo berserk at once, destroying the city and causing horrific loss of life. 
Before his suicide, Hoba had intentionally used his knowledge of the architec- 
tural specs of the ultra-modern Ark to create a complex weapon of mass destruc- 
tion. A typhoon now approaches Tokyo, and weather forecasts predict winds 
of velocities high enough to set off this catastrophe. 

Accordingly, the Patlabor squad hurries to destroy the Ark before the 
typhoon hits. At the end of a long battle sequence they are successful, and the 
final shot shows the bare foundations of the huge structure sitting amidst the 
sparkling blue water of Tokyo Bay. 

Again in this film we have obvious elements that resonate with Futurist 
ideals: high-tech machines that integrate with humans to produce speed and 
power (i.e. cyborgs)^'*; a focus on the city, particularly its newly built, ultra- 
modern elements; and gloriously depicted scenes of battle and destruction. But, 
like Rojin Z, Patlabor 1 takes some ideas of Futurism to their logical conclusions, 
providing a more complex and nuanced view of Futurist philosophy than 
Marinetti, Sant’Elia or their colleagues ever imagined. 

Oshii gives so much loving attention to particular aspects of the cityscape 
in this film that Tokyo effectively becomes a character in its own right. To illus- 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

trate this, I will highlight two elements in the film: a destruction sequence early 
on, and a narrative thread that specifically engages the cityscape and appears 
repeatedly in the film’s middle section. 

Soon after the opening credits the Patlabor squad is called out to stop a 
labor that has gone berserk and is smashing its way through western Shin- 
juku — an old-fashioned residential neighborhood that is near a new, ultra- 
modern area of skyscrapers. The old-fashioned buildings are low — two-story 
at most — made of wood covered by a stucco-like substance, with heavy ceramic 
roof tiles, occasionally patched on the outside with thin sheets of corrugated 
iron. This style of architecture was prevalent from the 19th century (and, except 
for the corrugated iron, even earlier) to the 1960s, and still exists in pockets of 
Tokyo despite all the natural and man-made disasters the city has experienced. 
This particular area was likely destroyed during the war but rebuilt in the same 
cheap and insubstantial style soon thereafter to provide housing for the hun- 
dreds of thousands left homeless by air raids. In areas like this, large streets cut 
sections into square (or square-ish) “blocks,” but between those are a multitude 
of narrow streets running in all directions. Houses, too, face many different 
directions as they cluster together cheek by jowl. In newly built parts of the city 
telephone and electrical wires run underground, but in neighborhoods like this 
they form a tangled mess, crisscrossing narrow streets at roof level from one 
house to another. By the time Patlabor 1 was made, this kind of neighborhood 
was giving way to high-rise apartment buildings, and would strike viewers as 
old-fashioned but also “homey.” Most people — young people especially — may 
not want to live in such drafty, flimsy, low-tech housing any more, but it is a 
reminder of a community consciousness that is often now idealized. 

In contrast, the skyscrapers of contemporary Tokyo are made of steel and 
glass, and their above-ground loftiness is often paired with underground pas- 
sages linking the buildings, as described above. Though the ethos of ultra- 
modern Tokyo is rarely idealized in the same nostalgic fashion as that of the 
old-fashioned areas, it is nonetheless idealized — as embodying the cool, techno- 
sawy, connected, speedy, dynamic urban lifestyle that Futurists would have 

The scene of the rogue labor tearing through this old-fashioned neigh- 
borhood is long and detailed, visualized in shots from multiple points of view, 
emphasizing repeatedly the contrast between the neighborhood architecture 
(as it is being destroyed) and the new architectural style of skyscrapers in the 
distance. In fact, it is worth describing some viewpoints through which this 
long scene is presented, to give a sense of Oshii’s attention to the cityscape. 

We start high up on a skyscraper, then pan down to street level,^^ where everything is 
old-fashioned: a tangle of wires crisscrossing over the street, two-story buildings of wood 
with roof tiles, big signs out front of each cluttering up the view, the street fairly narrow, 
pedestrians on the street and vendors pushing carts: a typical shopping street in an old- 
fashioned neighborhood (much like the one destroyed in Rojin Z, as described above). 

6. Future City Toyko (Orbaugh) 


People are told hy someone using a megaphone to clear the streets because the rogue 
labor is coming their way. 

View shifts: Wfe see a bird’s eye view of this neighborhood and see that in typical shi- 
tamachi (low city) style, there is no sidewalk: houses front directly onto the narrow 
street, with barely room for a single car between them. A few people sit atop their tiled 
roofs to see the excitement. The labor comes and crashes through that exact area, with 
the rooftop people scrambling to get out of the way. The labor crushes a police car under- 
foot, and plows through the old buildings as if they were paper. 

View shifts: We watch the labor come toward us through the buildings, of which we 
see only closely-packed roofs, all set at different angles and facing in different directions. 
Overhead is a huge motorway overpass with trucks and buses. The labor pushes on 
through the houses. 

View shifts: We see a helicopter from above and the cityscape below it— tightly packed 
low houses, again facing many ways. We see the path of destruction the labor has carved 
out among these fragile buildings. 

View shifts: we see the Patlabor being unloaded off a large truck as people watch. In 
the distant background, skyscrapers gleam in the sun. People cheer as the Patlabor 
marches off. 

View shifts: We look down a fairly broad street that has a raised highway going over 
it perpendicularly. Another Patlabor-bearing truck comes toward us. In the background, 
in the space between the overpass and road, we see in the middle distance low-rise old- 
fashioned buildings and houses, and behind them in the far distance, hugely tall ultra- 
modern skyscrapers. 

View shifts: The Patlabor follows the labor’s trail of destruction through the houses. 
We see the cross section of the destroyed homes and small shops, old building materials 
and techniques fully evident— old, thin wood now splintered, smashed roof tiles, thin 
corrugated iron bent and twisted. 

View shifts: The rogue labor still moves forward with the Patlabor behind it, following 
its swath of destruction. In the close and middle distance we see the old-fashioned houses 
and buildings of this neighborhood; then in the farthest distance, filling the frame from 
left to right, are hugely tall skyscrapers mixed with medium-sized but still ultra-modern 

View shifts: First we see a helicopter flying, then our view shifts again to what those 
in the helicopter are seeing, straight down into the old-fashioned neighborhood. There 
is one larger building, of concrete, but still old-style: a school or hospital. Men in the 
helicopter are doing a “play-by-play” of the battle between the labor and the Patlabor, 
which continue to plow through more wooden houses and shops. A second Patlabor 
comes and joins the battle, holding the labor while the first Patlabor pilot deploys one 
of his weapons: a baton to shut down the labor’s electrical systems. This works for a 
moment, but then the labor starts itself up again and continues to fight. The two — the 
first Patlabor and the labor — go blundering on through buildings, locked in combat, 
until they break through some final houses and land in a canal, lined hy old-fashioned 
looking, flimsy buildings. There are tall skyscrapers in the far distance. 

View shifts: Overhead view of the neighborhood and canal, showing part of the path 
of destruction that has literally carved its way through this dense neighborhood. The 
Patlabor pilot is about to shoot the labor, when his minder/driver instead literally freezes 
both of them, ending the incident. 

As in Rojin Z, the stark contrast between the high-tech, powerful, machinic 
(metal and plastic) labors and Patlabors and the cheap, flimsy, organic (wood 
and tile) architecture of the old-fashioned cityscape is emphasized in this long 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

scene of destruction. In Patlabor the scene is less explicitly humorous, less car- 
nivalesque than the one in Rojin Z. Nevertheless, unexpectedly, in both cases 
there is a somewhat manic, celebratory aspect to the way the destruction is 
depicted, rather than an elegiac or horrified tone of tragic loss. In this regard, 
one notes that in neither film is the destruction of huge areas of architecture 
accompanied by any loss or life or injury to a person. The antic glee associated 
with ripping structures apart can be enjoyed without the complicating emotions 
of sorrow over human suffering. 

Another feature that adds to the “positive” tone of the destruction 
sequences is the focus in both films on the interface between human and the 
machine that encloses him/her: in Rojin Z the paralyzed and helpless Jiichan 
can move freely and powerfully, to express and realize his desires through fusion 
with the cyber-bed; in Patlabor we see the smooth functioning of the 
human/mecha-suit amalgam as these cyborgian creatures work to save the city 
(by partly destroying it). 

The other element of Patlabor 1 which I will draw particular attention to— 
which most clearly shows how Tokyo functions as a “character” in the narra- 
tive — is a series of four scenes that are set off conspicuously from the rest of 
the film: they feature Matsui and a young colleague rather than members of the 
Patlabor squad; they are set to distinctive, beautiful but eerie music (composed 
by Kawaii Kanji); they are often entirely devoid of dialog; the background visu- 
als are gorgeously detailed, but the narrative pace is quite slow; and they all 
take place in exceptionally old-fashioned areas of Tokyo. As in all of Oshii’s 
films, these slow-tempo, lyrical passages in the middle of Patlabor 1 seem uncon- 
nected to the main plotline, but provide keys to the film’s larger meanings. In 
this case the scenes are intercut with others that are faster paced, featuring the 
Patlabor squad. 

In each of these four lyrical scenes Matsui and his colleague are tracing 
the places where Hoba lived before his suicide. To give a sense of how Oshii 
intends them to function in the film I will describe one scene in some detail. 

The view pans down a skyscraper to the tangle of wires just above street level, then to 
low buildings of old Tokyo — some wood with tile roofs, others low concrete buildings — 
all set at different angles. Matsui and his colleague are walking along a typical old- 
fashioned shopping street, with a pachinko parlor, a koban (police box) where they get 
directions, and a store that sells old-fashioned furin (wind chimes).^'^ They walk down 
an old street, very claustrophobic with houses pressing close on either side, wires over- 
head. They continue down more narrow streets. The houses have laundry hanging out- 
side. Then we get a view from inside one house, looking out to the street where the 
detectives are walking, and we see a very high-tech television set, showing a contempo- 
rary news program. 

The policemen pick their way through a particularly narrow alley filled with junk. 
At the open end of the alley, looking out to the distance, we see skyscrapers. The two 
men go to another old, shabby-looking building: weathered wood, rusted iron railings, 
patched corrugated iron on roof and outside. They go to several more, similar buildings. 
All have empty birdcages inside. 

6. Future City Toyko (Orbaugh) 


At one point Matsui and his colleague go through an old house and out the back 
where there is a canal, nearly dried up, with trash in it. As they jump over the water 
in the canal to get to a house on the other side, we see a reflection in the water of ultra- 
modern skyscrapers. 

They walk along a high wall, with sotoba (posthumous Buddhist name sticks) show- 
ing above it, and then enter the courtyard of a building made of stone, with broad stairs, 
nicely shaped balconies and other handsome architectural details very unusual for 
Tokyo — probably built in the Meiji period and meant to look “European. ” In this build- 
ing, obviously once very handsome, all the windows are now broken and there is junk 
in the courtyard (including an old birdcage). Next the two men stand in a dump, filling 
most of the shot. Behind the dump is a line of trees, and behind that, in the distance, 
skyscrapers. Heatwaves rise off the junk. Then a long shot focuses on a faraway, very 
thin skyscraper. 

Throughout this long scene there is no dialog at all, just eerie music. While 
the near focus— the spaces through which the detectives move — is entirely 
devoted to old-fashioned structures— many of them half-ruined, or already 
demolished — in the distance, in reflections, or out the windows of old buildings 
we see the ultra-modern skyscrapers of new Tokyo. It is significant that we also 
see inside one home where someone is watching a high-tech looking TV: we 
are reminded that the cutting-edge highly connective elements of Tokyo exist 
even within the old neighborhoods and will eventually transform them. 

In the final of the four lyrical scenes, when Matsui and his colleague have 
visited the last of Hoba’s twenty-eight residences, they are joined by Captain 
Goto of the Patlabor squad on an abandoned construction site next to Tokyo 
Bay. Matsui comments to Goto that the area had been marked for demolition, 
first for a high-rise housing development, then to put a highway through, but 
because of squabbling between the parties involved nothing had happened so 
far. The result is that this small patch of old Tokyo has been suspended in time. 

Matsui remarks: “This is a weird area. As I’ve been pursuing this guy’s 
past. I’ve had the strangest feeling, like I’ve been left behind in the flow of time. 
Places I have been used to seeing until just a little while ago have either crumbled 
to dust or been left in ruins. If you turn your eyes away for just an instant, 
when you look back they have completely disappeared. And it happens before 
you have time to think about what it all means. In a city like this I guess the 
past isn’t worth a penny.” 

Goto replies: “This place where we are sitting right now was part of the 
bay until just a little while ago. Moreover, after a few years the ocean we are 
currently looking at will have become a huge city. But, inevitably, that city too 
will become just the past, with no more worth than a penny. Maybe that’s what 
Hoba was trying to show us.” 

This series of scenes, culminating in the dialog between Matsui and Goto, 
might at first seem to encourage the interpretation that this film’s message is 
about nostalgia and sorrow for the tragic loss of these older areas of Tokyo, as 
they are rapidly replaced by the new vision of the city, the city of this generation 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

(as Sant’Elia might have it). And it is undeniable that nostalgia and a sense of 
loss are part of what the film is trying to say about the nature of Tokyo. But 
the film ends with the necessary destruction of the Ark, suggesting that not all 
destruction is bad. The celebratory tone of the scene of the rogue labor carving 
its way through an old-fashioned neighborhood, described above, also suggests 
that destruction is not necessarily tragic. 

But one point of this conversation that is particularly relevant is the 
acknowledgement that change is inevitable, and will not stop with the current 
wave of construction/ reconstruction, nor with any future wave. As Goto says, 
“But inevitably that [future] city, too, will become just the past with no more 
worth than a penny.” The Italian Futurists advocated a city that was destroyed 
and rebuilt by each generation, a city undergoing constant evolution. As San- 
t’Elia predicted for his Futurist city: “Things Will Endure Less Than Us” (171; 
my emphasis); in other words, people will survive even when the structures 
around them are destroyed. As we see in Akira and Evangelion, even in the case 
of a city’s annihilation there are human survivors, and the first thing they do 
is to rebuild. These films, like many other Japanese anime, attempt to imagine 
a world in which the city environment undergoes constant change, and to imag- 
ine this world not as a tragic dystopia, but a reality that may be acceptable. 
Although the Futurists never spelled out the detailed consequences of a situation 
of constant change, in Japanese science fiction we find some attempts to explore 
those consequences in an affirmative way. 


1. Antonio Sant’Elia, “Manifesto of Futurist Architecture, 1914,” cited in Caroline 
Tisdall and Angelo Bozzolla, Futurism (New York and Toronto: Oxford University Press, 
1978), 130. The manifesto can be found in full in Futurist Manifestos, ed. Umbro Apol- 
lonio (London: Tate Publishing, 1970), 160-172, where this sentence is translated as 
“Things Will Endure Less Than Us. Every Generation Must Build Its Own City” 
(171). Subsequent Sant’Elia page references in the text are to the Apollonio edition. 

2. While Japan was ostensibly unified in the early 1600s by Shogun Tokugawa leyasu, 
it actually remained a collection of hundreds of semi-autonomous fiefdoms. In 1868 the 
Meiji forces abolished the fiefdoms and installed a centralized national government, 
organized in imitation of the developed nation states of Europe. The other “late mod- 
ernizing nations” — Italy and Germany — went through a similar process, changing from 
loosely affiliated collections of kingdoms or principalities to unified nation states in the 
mid to late nineteenth century. 

3. Richard Humphreys, Futurism (London: Tate Publishing, 1999), 13. 

4. Japanese personal names are presented in Japanese style, surname first. 

5. Hosokawa Shuhei, editor, “Miraiha Nenpyo,” [Timeline of Futurism] Eureka, 17 
[special edition on Futurism] (December, 1985), 247. 

6. Miryam Sas, Fault Lines: Cultural Memory and Japanese Surrealism (Stanford: Stan- 
ford University Press, 2001), 10. 

7. Several of the translations into English of the various Futurist manifestos originally 
written in Italian use the terms “the passe” or “passe-ism” to translate the “^passatismo" 
that the Futurists so abhorred, so I have also adopted those terms in this essay. 

6. Future City Toyko (Orbaugh) 


8. F. T. Marinetti, “The Founding Manifesto of Futurism,” Futurist Manifestos, 

22 . 

9. Marinetti, “Founding Manifesto,” 22. Much is made of the misogyny of the Futur- 
ists, but, like so much in their philosophy, their misogyny is less absolute and more 
complex than one might guess from such straightforward language. When Marinetti 
proclaimed the basis for his political party in 1918 he included in his platform equal pay 
for women and a lessening of the discrepancy between the rights of women and of men. 
In his “Founding Manifesto” it is likely that what Marinetti wanted to condemn — as 
an adjunct to his celebration of war — was feminine softness and timidity, feminine 
hatred of violence, characteristics ascribed by the already developed colonial powers to 
late modernizing nations. 

10. Among the Futurists who died in World War 1 were key figures Antonio Sant’Elia 
(architect) and Umberto Boccioni (painter). Both died in 1916: Sant’Elia was killed in 
battle, and Boccioni from falling off a horse in a cavalry exercise. While Marinetti and 
Mussolini were political allies for a time, Marinetti “eventually split with Mussolini 
because of the radical aspects of futurism that were antithetical to fascism” (Tisdall and 
Bozzolla 17). For more on Marinetti’s split from fascist politics, see Humphreys, Futur- 
ism, 70 ff. 

11. Marinetti, “Destruction of Syntax — Imagination without Strings — Words-in- 
Freedom, 1913,” Futurist Manifestos, 96 (emphasis mine). 

12. Marinetti, “Geometric and Mechanical Splendour and the Numerical Sensibility, 
1914,” Futurist Manifestos, 154. 

13. For more on eugenics and physical fitness in prewar Japan see Jennifer Robertson, 
“Blood Talks: Eugenic Modernity and the Creation of New Japanese,” History and 
Anthropology, 13:3 (2002), 191-216. 

14. Much could be said about Tokyo Station, completed in 1914, as an embodiment 
and tool of imperial modernity. Unlike the scattered railway stations that circle central 
London, for example, making it impossible to go from an eastern train line to a western 
one without a long transfer between stations, Tokyo was the hub of all train lines heading 
in any direction. Erom Tokyo Station one could travel to Korea— connecting with a 
steamship at Shimonoseki — or to twenty-five destinations in China, including Beijing, 
as of the 1920s. It was comparable in scale and magnificence to New York’s Grand Central 
Station, completed in 1913. (See William H. Coaldrake, Architecture and Authority in 
Japan [London: Routledge, 1996], 223, 224.) 

15. William Tsutsui, Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of the Monsters 
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 16. 

16. Andre Sorensen, The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the 
Twenty-first Century (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 125. 

17. For more on the destruction of Tokyo and other Japanese cities by bombing raids 
in World War II, see John Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Aftermath of World 
War II (London: Penguin Books, 1999); or Thomas Havens, Valley of Darkness: The Japa- 
nese People and World War Two (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1986). 

18. The Tokyo Olympics in 1964 provided another opportunity and inspiration for 
further (re-)development. In the Yoyogi area of Tokyo many older buildings were razed 
to create the beautiful arenas designed by architect Tange Kenzo. Connectivity was also 
enhanced: in Tokyo new sewer-lines were laid, replacing old system of septic tanks that 
had remained common till then, highways were built, and the Tokyo monorail and high- 
speed bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto were launched. 

19. In the manifesto “Weights, Measures and Prices of Artistic Genius— Futurist 
Manifesto, 1914,” Bruno Corradini and Emilio Settimelli anticipate cybernetics by analo- 
gizing the human brain to a machine {Futurist Manifestos, 136); other manifestos advo- 
cate the fusion of the human with the machine, anticipating cyborgs. 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

20. Carlos Clarens, An Illustrated History of Horror and Science Fiction Films: The 
Classic Era, 1895-1967, 1967, New Edition (New York: Da Capo Press, 1997), 132. 

21. Susan J. Napier, “When Godzilla Speaks,” In Godzilla’s Footsteps: Japanese Pop 
Culture Icons on the Global Stage, ed. Tsutsui and Michiko Ito (New York: Palgrave 
Macmillan, 2006), 17. For a thorough discussion of several of the most iconic of Japanese 
apocalyptic anime, see Napier’s Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing 
Contemporary Japanese Animation (New York: Palgrave, 2001). 

22. After the release of a second Patlabor film, Kidd keisatsu patoreihaa 2 in 1993, the 
first one retroactively came to be known as Patlabor 1, which is how I refer to it here. 

23. The Japanese title was retained in its critically acclaimed U.S. release. It literally 
means “Old man Z.” 

24. For critical commentary on Akira, see Napier’s Anime. 

25. The “Second Impact” had wiped out half the people on earth when the first Angel 
had been discovered in the Antarctic and accidentally detonated. 

26. A “mecha-suit” or just “mecha” (for “mechanical”) is a common element in Japa- 
nese science fiction of all genres. A mecha is a large high-tech machine, often shaped 
like a huge armored human, which is piloted by one or more people. In science fiction 
narratives mechas are used for many things— construction, transportation — but most 
often for fighting. An analogous example is Ripley in the penultimate scene of Aliens, 
when she dons the cargo loader to fight the alien queen, though the typical mecha is 
much larger than Ripley’s exosuit. 

27. For more on mecha-suits as cyborgs see Sharalyn Orbaugh, “Frankenstein and 
the Cyborg Metropolis: The Evolution of Body and City in Science Fiction Narratives,” 
Cinema Anime, ed. Steven T. Brown (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), especially 
pages 90-91. For more on Evangelion and the necessity of “synching” with the suit, see 
Napier, Anime, 193-218; Napier, “When the Machines Stop: Fantasy, Reality and Ter- 
minal Identity in Neon Genesis Evangelion and Serial Experiments Lain," Science Fiction 
Studies, 29 (November, 2002), 418-435; and Orbaugh, “Sex and the Single Cyborg: Japa- 
nese Pop Culture Experiments in Subjectivity,” Science Fiction Studies, 29 (November, 
2002), 436-452. 

28. Humphreys, “Afterword: Futurism: May the Force Be with You,” Futurist Man- 
ifestos, 226. 

29. After completing the TV series. Anno made three film versions of Evangelion, all 
with slightly different endings. In no case, though, does Earth escape the destruction of 
the cities and virtually all of humankind. 

30. It is common in Japan to call non-relatives by terms like “older brother,” 
“mother,” “uncle,” grandfather,” etc., as appropriate to the age of the addressee. This 
sort of address is sometimes used by/to strangers, but most often when a semi-intimate 
relationship pertains, such as between neighbors. 

31. The Kamakura Daibutsu is a bronze statue probably cast in the year 1252. It is 
about 45 feet high (in its sitting position) and estimated to weigh around 90 tons. 

32. In “Frankenstein and the Cyborg Metropolis” I discuss how Innocence depicts a 
city that forms a computer-like network of which the inhabitants are functional nodes 

33. For more details about the Patlabor narratives, see Brian Ruh, Stray Dog of Anime: 
The Eilms of Mamoru Oshii (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 73-118; or Dani 
Cavallaro, The Ginema of Oshii Mamoru: Eantasy, Technology and Politics (Jefferson, 
NC: McFarland and Company, 2006), 100-133. 

34. “Patlabor” seems to be a contraction of “patrol labor” — that is, the machines 
designed to patrol and if necessary subdue errant labors. 

35. As in many of Oshii Mamoru’s films, there are several references here to Christian, 
Buddhist and Gnostic mysticism. While references to Old Testament Christianity in 

6. Future City Toyko (Orbaugh) 


Patlabor 1 help to reinforce the narrative’s underlying themes, they are not central to 
the plot. 

36. Many Patlabor stories focus explicitly on the psychological and material details 
of the integration between human pilot and Patlabor suit, to explore the ramifications 
of humanity’s increasing cyborgization. In Patlabor 1 we get glimpses of this theme, par- 
ticularly in Noa’s concern about changes in her Patlabor’s operating system. 

37. Tokyo has little or no “modernist” architecture, no massive stone or concrete 
skyscrapers dating from before World War II (like the Empire State Building). All the 
tall buildings are post-war constructions, most of them post-1970s. There are a few 
tallish prewar buildings, mostly in the Marunouchi area that has long been the center 
of Japanese commerce and government. But these are in the main about 10-15 stories 
tall, not skyscrapers. 

38. This “shot” — a scene opening with a distant view of a skyscraper, panning down- 
wards to a close-up view of old-fashioned buildings— is repeated several times in the 

39. These details are all extremely evocative of old-fashioned neighborhood Tokyo. 
Just as in Rojin Z, a pachinko parlor (pachinko is a sort of slot machine) is featured here 
to indicate the age and character of the neighborhood — these are still found in many 
areas of Tokyo, but are rapidly dying out in the age of computer games. A koban is a 
tiny police station, usually only large enough for a desk and one or two officers. Until 
recently koban were located every few blocks and the policemen assigned there knew 
everyone in the neighborhood and provided various kinds of assistance, as well as giving 
directions to strangers— an essential service given the fact that 99 percent of Tokyo 
streets have no names and addresses are impossible to find unaided. The sweet, high 
sound of the furin wind chimes was believed to cool people down in the almost tropical 
heat of Tokyo summer, hut furin have given way to air conditioners. 


Rebooting “A Logic 
Named Joe” 

Exploring the Multiple 
Influences of a Strangely Predictive 
Mid-1940s Short Story 

David L. Ferro and 
Eric G. Swedin 


From the early 20th century to the 1970s, the role played by the computer 
in science fiction seems far different from the roles it plays in society today. 
Stories concerned either ever larger and more ominous “giant brains,” or the 
“brains” of robots and issues in their interactions with humanity. A continually 
rediscovered exception to this trend is a 1946 story, “A Logic Named foe,” which 
not only seemingly predicts our current PC-appliance, World Wide Web-con- 
nected world, but contemporary attendant problems, among others, of privacy, 
censorship, and personal responsibility. 

This chapter utilizes “A Logic Named Joe” to examine the impact of science 
fiction, looking at the story’s themes, the intentions of the author as both author 
and technologist, and the reception of the story by 21st-century readers, includ- 
ing students when used as a catalyst for classroom discussion. While our con- 
clusion shows some skepticism about the importance of science fiction as 
predictor, it endorses the importance of science fiction in multiple roles in 
describing and influencing the actual development of science, technology, and 


7. Rebooting “A Logic Named Joe” (Ferro and Swedin) 


The Story and Analysis 

William F. Jenkins had two stories in the 1946 issue oi Astounding Science- 
Fiction: “Adapter,” under pen-name Murray Leinster, and another, under his 
real name of Will F. Jenkins, “A Logic Named Joe.” There is no evidence as to 
why he chose his real name for the story that became the far more popular one. 
While his real name was often reserved for less “pulpy” fiction and non-fiction 
writing, fans of science fiction universally knew him as Leinster. The story 
found itself in a few collections, including Sidewise in Time and Other Scientific 
Adventures (1950) and most recently in A Logic Named Joe (2005), where it is 
one of four stories now available free-of-charge via the Web. It was broadcast 
as a radio show at least twice.' 

Feedback in the June issue of Astounding listed “Joe” as the March issue’s 
most popular story.^ It was one of only three noted in the Jenkins obituary of 
Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field and described as “one of the 
earliest explorations of computer problems.”^ Years later Isaac Asimov, Patricia 
S. Warrick, and Martin H. Greenberg called it “very interesting [...] one of a 
kind.” “[0]nly Leinster,” they wrote, had “imagined a society where home 
computers might be common” in a time when computers “were huge constructs 
so expensive that only the government or a large corporation could afford to 
own one” and “the miniaturization of computers had not yet been anticipated.”^ 
In a magazine article, Andy Duncan labeled the story “astonishing” and “one 
of the most prescient science fiction stories [ever].” Leinster was hailed as “a 

The story follows an unnamed protagonist (occasionally called “Ducky” 
by one woman in his life) who maintains “Logics” — machines that conveniently 
satisfy all the information and entertainment needs of a modern household. 
The story is told in a colloquial first-person form instantly recognizable to any- 
one who has heard the generically East Coast “blue collar” second stringers 
from 1930s and 1940s Hollywood movies. Logics are linked together and also 
linked to “Tanks” containing information. An excerpt lays out the capabilities 
of logics and style of the writing: 

Say you punch “Station SNAFU” on your logic. Relays in the tank take over an’ what- 
ever vision-program SNAFU is telecastin’ comes on your logic’s screen. Or you punch 
“Sally Hancock’s Phone” an’ the screen blinks an’ sputters an’ you’re hooked up with 
the logic in her house an’ if somebody answers you got a vision-phone connection. 
But besides that, if you punch for the weather forecast or who won today’s race at 
Hialeah or who was mistress of the White House durin’ Garfield’s administration or 
what is PDQ and R sellin’ for today, that comes on the screen too. The relays in the 
tank do it. The tank is a big buildin’ full of all the facts in creation an’ all the recorded 
telecasts that ever was made — an’ it’s hooked in with all the other tanks all over the 

Into this sanguine technology-enhanced world comes a particular logic 
off the assembly line that by completely random and unlikely chance exhibits 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

some awareness of its purpose and endeavors to do its job better by synthesizing 
heretofore unlinked information. Thus, since logics are linked, intentionality 
is introduced to the system by one unit that begins advertising its capacities. 
As people realize the potential of the new service and begin requesting and 
receiving answers to outlandish and potentially unsavory things— from how to 
become rich to how to kill one’s wife without discovery — logic maintenance 
people race to find what is causing this unintended service. In the end 
“Ducky”— by actually asking the service itself — manages to deduce which logic 
(which he names “Joe”) is the culprit. He also avoids the advances of his “black- 
widow type” ex-girlfriend. Taurine, who was able to find him via Joe, and hides 
the now turned-off logic in his basement. The story ends with him pondering 
Joe’s fate: to “reboot” the machine and allow himself possible infinite wealth 
and everlasting life, or take an ax to it and destroy its dangerous potential. The 
story begins, “It was on the third day of August that Joe come off the assembly 
line, and on the fifth Taurine come into town, an’ that afternoon 1 saved civi- 
lization” (139). It concludes, “it’s a pretty good world, now Joe’s turned off. 
Maybe I’ll turn him on long enough to learn how to stay in it. But on the other 
hand, maybe— “ (154). 

Several prophetic technologies are instantly recognizable in the story. 
While the terms “logic” and “tank” might be unfamiliar to modern audiences, 
one must remember that the term “computer” at the time could still refer to 
humans who utilized electro-mechanical calculators. Additionally, the ENIAC 
and Mark 11 machines had only recently become public knowledge with terms 
like “electronic brain” and “giant brain” used by the press. However, the logic 
device as described, complete with keyboard, screen, and its links to commu- 
nication and entertainment services and to “all the facts in creation” encapsu- 
lates the modern Internet-linked personal computer. The world described by 
Jenkins is what the modern personal computer might hope to achieve in terms 
of convenience and ease of use, with the device fully subsuming other more 
functionally limited technologies like televisions and phones. The “common” 
speech of the protagonist further emphasizes the point. He is a maintenance 
man, no different than a telephone repairman before the breakup of AT&T. 
Occupants of this world understand the implications also. When the frantic 
protagonist asks a technician at the tank to shut down, the technician responds 
“Shut down the tank? [...] Does it occur to you, fella, that the tank has been 
doin’ all the computin’ for every business office for years? [...] Tisten, fella! bog- 
ies changed civilization, bogies are civilization!” (148, italics in original). 

The prophecy goes beyond the technology. The implication of a perfectly 
helpful machine, with no ambition other than to serve users, also finds parallels 
in our own time. Privacy is suddenly at risk, as exhibited humorously by many 
people now uncovering the peccadilloes of neighbors and loved ones. Informa- 
tion on how to steal, murder, and destroy the world is suddenly available 
because Joe “blocked all censor-circuits” and created a “perfect” service with 

7. Rebooting “A Logic Named Joe” (Ferro and Swedin) 


no notions of right and wrong (143). As the protagonist says, “He ain’t like one 
of these ambitious robots you read about that make up their minds the human 
race is inefficient and has got to be wiped out an’ replaced by thinkin’ machines” 

Between the returned girlfriend, the multiple uses of many users, and ulti- 
mate question of Joe’s fate, temptation and personal responsibility play a major 
role in the story. As a practicing American Catholic, Jenkins often returned to 
this theme, especially in his detective stories. In “Will Jenkins: An Apprecia- 
tion,” Theodore Sturgeon noted, “He was aJmost excessively moral, if that can 
be an excess.”^ Temptation played a role in the magazine’s two illustrations as 
well. In both, the interaction occurs through a logic’s screen: one shows two 
dancing African women in tight revealing tunics observed by an interested 
young boy and girl; in the other, a scantily dressed Taurine communicates with 
an obviously conflicted “Ducky.” Rather than being unique to this story, how- 
ever, salacious illustrations were fairly typical in the pulps. 

The technology is on one hand viewed as amoral and neutral, just as our 
own often is, with no politics obvious in its design, leaving users as ultimate 
arbiters of right and wrong and appropriate use. On the other hand, the tech- 
nology that existed before Joe has many “censor-circuits,” far more than we 
currentJy do in a centraJized way, protecting “the kiddies [who] wiJl be askin’ 
detailed questions about things they’re too young to know” (142). The use of 
centralized censorship should not surprise us as it reflects the approach taken 
by the United States during World War II — an activity Jenkins was personaJJy 
involved with in his own work in the Office of War Information. 

The View from Today’s Youth 

“A Logic Named Joe” has many characteristics that make it useful as a cat- 
alyst for discussion in the classroom, and both authors have done just that for 
several years. It has been used in computer science, history, and social science 
courses in both Finland (Tampere) and the United States (Ogden, Utah). Class- 
room use shows how constructive the story remains as a tool for understanding 
contemporary society. 

Most students expressed amazement that a story written in 1946 could be 
so accurate in portraying the Internet-connected computer world of today. 
Some had difficulty reading the language although, when examined further, it 
appeared that for-pleasure readers of fiction had less difficulty. They found the 
sexism a bit off-putting in some cases but chalked that up to “stuff written long 

The protagonist’s dilemma intrigued them. Interestingly, when asked 
whether they would turn Joe on or take an ax to him, students split fairly 
evenly — reflecting the internal arguments of the protagonist. However, in 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

America the edge goes to those who would turn the machine on by either some- 
how neutering it, or just damning the consequences, and thus serve whatever 
their needs are. You see that in some comments: “First I would find someone 
that knows more about technology than 1 do. I would have him fixed ... some- 
how. Then 1 would use him to my benefit.” The student continued: “By con- 
trolling the amount of time he was on, it would be possible to ensure that he 
did not get too out of control. Whenever he is turned on, a system of safeties 
could be put into effect to keep him under control of the operator and not 
thinking for himself.” Another noted: “I would most likely turn him on and 
use him to gain a competitive advantage over the rest of the world. 1 would try 
to keep him a secret so people would just think I’m superhuman.” Another 
said succinctly: “Turn him on. Solve the energy crisis. Turn him off.” 

People who indicated that they would unequivocally destroy the machine 
were in the minority (although more equal in Finland) and while explaining 
their position sometimes revealed the antipathy towards perceived out-of-con- 
trol technology and mistrust of human motives. One student noted: “I would 
take an ax to him as I would not want to deal with the consequences of human 
stupidity. Great as it may seem, 1 think preserving the human race is more 
important than unbounded technology and knowledge.” The student contin- 
ued, “And for whatever reason people seem to go more prone to self-destruction 
than self-preservation at the present time.” Another said: “If I had Joe sitting 
in my basement, I would take him apart so he couldn’t get activated again. 1 
wouldn’t just unplug him, 1 would completely destroy him.” Interestingly, he 
added: “I don’t think that Joe really had harmful intent, but when you give 
someone, or something in this case, power (and he had a lot of power over the 
other computing machines) they will want more power. I think that Joe wanted 
to eventually take over the humans, which isn’t exactly what 1 want to happen.” 

One student, a computer science major, instantly assessed the point of the 
story: the machine could not be turned on without consequences; he couldn’t 
be “fixed.” He indicated that he would use the ax. When pressed on the point 
that he was entering an academic field which has long actively pursued intelli- 
gent agents and other artificial intelligences potentially like those exhibited by 
Joe, he noted a difference between reality and fiction. In fiction, he stated, 
inventions often seem to instantly arrive on the scene, whereas in reality there 
is generally a long lead time for people to adapt to the notion. At this moment, 
he was against the idea of Joe, but eventually he (or his decedents) might feel 

Students used other stories to place the piece in context — generally arche- 
typical stories referencing Pandora’s Box or Genie-type stories where you must 
“be careful what you wish for.” “Flowers in the Attic,” “A Little Princess,” and 
similar stories came up as well, with students sensing some affection in the pro- 
tagonist for the machine and concerned with the “parenting style” that left the 
machine shut up in the basement. 

7. Rebooting “A Logic Named Joe” (Ferro and Swedin) 


Many themes obviously intended by the story received serious consider- 
ation: personal and collective responsibility, censorship, the potential loss of 
individuality, and the nature of real and assumed privacy. As noted by responses 
to the question of turning Joe back on or keeping him turned off, students grav- 
itated towards personal control over the god-like power of a personal genie. 
They mostly expressed the same attitudes towards censorship of information, 
although here we saw a difference between the U.S. and Finland. In the U.S. 
there was a trend towards personal responsibility and local controls, while we 
saw a slight trend towards centrally-controlled information in Finland. In both 
countries, however, the totally centralized censorship approach used by the 
system in the story (and here there were many comparisons to contemporary 
Internet use) seemed naive. The privacy issue became revelatory for many stu- 
dents as they realized and theorized that a sense of privacy has historically been 
based on ignorance and that the Web makes that ignorance both more obvious 
and more widely available beyond the local. 

Finally, in one class, a returning student from physics, who read the story 
in our prior class, indicated that the story had helped change his opinion on 
science fiction and its role in understanding science. Fie was now reading science 
fiction. Jenkins might have been proud; he likely would have felt no conflict 
between reading, writing, and practicing both science and science fiction. 

The Author and the Fiction/Science Divide 

Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 
ninety-nine percent perspiration.” If that is true of all inventors, Jenkins prob- 
ably would have said his science fiction fit into the 1 percent piece and he was 
happy to work in the remaining 99 percent. He might have also argued that 
perspiration includes reaching a constituency, inspiration can come from many 
sources at many different times or from many places simultaneously, and part 
of inspiration includes the responsibility of wondering about its potential 
effects— and fiction had a role there also. 

Jenkins made his living as a writer and it was through that activity that he 
brought these approaches together. It will soon be obvious, however, that Jenk- 
ins felt as optimistic about fiction as a place for creative inspiration for things, 
both real and imagined, as he did about the lab. Fiction could also draw people 
into the lab as future engineers and scientists, and could smooth the public 
road for products of those labs. 

At the age of 21 William Fitzgerald Jenkins (1896-1975) became a profes- 
sional writer and subsequently supported himself in that profession for the 
remainder of his life.® He wrote for many magazines, often mainstream ones 
such as Collier’s and Saturday Evening Post, and in many different genres. By 
the end of his life he had published approximately 1,800 short stories, 100 novels. 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

and a number of factual pieces. Several movies and radio shows were derived 
from his stories. 

He always had a strong interest in science and technology. At 14 he won 
an aeronautical magazine contest after building a working glider. His private 
correspondence reveals a number of exchanges with scientists and doctors on 
their work. He maintained a working lab at his home to “tinker” in (Moskowitz 
58) and submitted and received many patents. 

One Jenkins invention in particular shows the cross-fertilization of science, 
fiction, and technology. While his story “First Contact” was being adapted for 
television he wondered about the expense of staging. Inspired to reduce costs 
while still creating the magic of illusion, he retired to his lab to create a pro- 
jection system combining a camera attachment and a rear wall of Scotchlite 
reflective material. This allowed for seamless integration of projected back- 
ground images and film. The patented invention’ was licensed by Sherman 
Fairchild and further developed, becoming used extensively in television and 
still photography work into the 1990s. Interestingly, repeating the theme of 
first contact with aliens, the first major film that took advantage of this tech- 
nology was 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). 

Despite writing for other lucrative genres, he appears to have favored sci- 
ence fiction and for more than just its potentially fantastical elements. In a 1963 
talk Jenkins said, “It has long been my belief that science fiction is really the 
hope of the nation.”'* In a proposed talk to the Eastern Science Fiction Asso- 
ciation in 1947, Jenkins wrote, “There is a ... value in the kind of speculation 
and the kind of air-tight reasoning from fantastic assumptions which we sci- 
ence-fiction addicts are used to.”'^ 

He strove to communicate science to wider audiences through fiction and 
factual writing. In a 1954 article, “To Build a Robot Brain,” he suggested that 
creating “thinking” computers might require some kind of evolution — a 
machine-learning approach now often used in robotics today.'’ He wrote a tel- 
evision script for an interview with Dr. Grace Hopper, a well-known program- 
mer for the first commercial computer, the UN J VAC, who later went on to help 
invent the programming language COBOL. In 1957, inspired by that interview, 
he proposed a popular book on computers that would be anecdotal, showing 
the human side of computing. 

The proposal was, in a sense, to create a book like those “golden age” sci- 
ence fiction stories, where engineers are real people working together to solve 
technical problems, but, more importantly, average people were using technol- 
ogy in a nonchalant way. The publisher even suggested that Jenkins try to get 
corporate sponsorship (Sperry- Rand and IBM are mentioned).''' Jenkins noted, 
“Most of the printed matter I’ve seen has been designed to provoke gasps of 
astonished awe, instead of letting a reader see using them as perfectly natural.” 
He proposed to counter this bias by showing that “people who actually work 
them do not stand around in poses of reverent admiration. They give ’em nick- 

7. Rebooting “A Logic Named Joe” (Ferro and Swedin) 


names. They use them, privately, as casually as a stenographer typing out a 
shopping list.... They are part of the office scene. 

At the time of this proposal a Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn movie. 
Desk Set, was released which centered on the tension caused by the transition 
to a computerized workplace.'*’ An “electronic brain” enters the lives of a com- 
pany’s librarians, who fear for their jobs. In the end, all keep their jobs and 
learn to appreciate the computer. Although the movie was sponsored by IBM, 
the machine had a name that sounded like UNIVAC: EMERAC. Both Jenkins’ 
proposal and the movie brought in humorous anecdotes to show the human 
side of human-computer interaction. Jenkins noted the story, relayed to him 
via Hopper, about the errant computer operator whose boss found a way to get 
the machine to yell at him when he forgot to change tapes. In the film, the 
Tracy and Hepburn characters get the affectionately named “Emmy” to weigh 
in on their possible love life. Both the proposal and movie focus attention on 
job descriptions changing in the face of new technology. 

“A Logic Named Joe” managed to become a means of communicating 
about science and technology as well. A 1962 Canadian educational film. The 
Living Machine, utilized the story to explain computing machinery (Moskowitz 
64).'^ While the depiction of computing in the book proposal above seems a 
far cry from that in his 1946 story, there is still a critical parallel. The story had 
to create dramatic tension through something — in this case a threat to civi- 
lization by an intelligent logic. But the depictions of logics as everyday devices 
unreflectively used by everyday folk — that theme remains. The perspective is 
borne out by the students mentioned above. When challenged, students had a 
hard time empathizing with a world that didn’t include computers and the 
Internet. To them, born into a world where those technologies always existed, 
the technologies’ world-changing properties were viewed with a collective 

It is unclear if Jenkins had access to the July, 1945 Atlantic Monthly essay 
by Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think,” that has been cited as influential by 
Douglas Engelbart and J. C. R. Licklidder in developing personal information 
machines, networking, and hypertext, among other things, although it is likely 
given his interest in technical concepts.'® However, he need not have read it as 
inspiration for the story to occur to him. In a 1951 proposal outlining vignettes 
for a TV series tentatively entitled “The Monster,” Jenkins described a “Logic” 
in a fairly prosaic way as a combination TV, calculator, telephone, secretarial 
service, filing system, and information service that belies the obviousness of 
the combined invention.'" Perhaps because of the many magazines that Jenkins 
wrote for, he could often see beyond the “lab” to a technology’s potential use 
and implications. For example, a few days after the atomic bomb dropped on 
Hiroshima, he was asked by the editor of Today’s Woman to write “What the 
Atom Bomb Will Mean to the Average American Housewife.” In the article he 
proposes that with atomic power “every family could afford to have its own 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

deep freeze instead of having to hire out frozen food lockers in refrigeration 
plants” (“Guest of Honor Speech” 77). 

The separation between what he viewed as science fiction speculation and 
science speculation might not have been that great. In an article for Analog Sci- 
ence Fiction/Science Pact, he cited his invention of the front projection system 
as “applied science fiction.”^'’ But, in his view, it was not only science fiction 
authors who view the future. For example, he attributes some prognostication 
to scientist Hopper: 

The Bank of America has a business machine which beautifully does the work of 
keeping track of checking accounts. Univac has the probable near-future function 
of taking the data from time-clocks transmitted by wire from as far as a thousand 
miles away, and at the week’s end actuating a check-writing machine at the distant 
plant, delivering to each man there his weekly pay with suitable withholdings ... 
(Jenkins “Book idea” 2) 

Just as with Hopper, Jenkins continually sought to put real scientists in 
the limelight. In 1951 he was approached by Arkham House Publishers to include 
a story with actual news stories related to the story.^' In his proposal for the 
book The Murder of the U.S.A (1946), he wanted to include an “authoritative 
scientific forecast” by “a top-rank scientist. 

The role of science fiction and idea generation is obvious during World 
War II. Many Americans volunteered their ideas towards winning the war. The 
government even gathered some idea generators together that included science 
fiction authors. In the 1963 keynote address to the 21st World Science Fiction 
Convention, Jenkins told the story of one such group: “In the early days of the 
War there was a Navy Research Unit constituted; it had Isaac [Asimov] in it ... 
Bob Heinlein ... and Sprague de Camp ... they were supposed to do some sort 
of a job, so a science fiction writer can serve his country in wartime.” Jenkins 
did not join the group, but still submitted ideas and interacted with them: 
“Heinlein called me up from Philadelphia ... he remembered that in the early 
part of the war I had written to his outfit and mentioned something which they 
thought would be a help with Kamikazes— only nobody could remember it.” 
The idea, using a shell to create a flash of magnesium particles, was tested by 
the Navy only 10 days later but never used in battle because the war ended 
before it could move to the deployment phase. Another of Jenkins’ ideas tried 
by the Navy was placing streamers on periscopes to eliminate their wake ( Jenk- 
ins, “Guest of Honor Speech” 74). 

Leinster also described being visited by a government security official dur- 
ing World War 11 to ask if the story “Deadline” was a leak. Written by Cleve 
Cartmill for the March, 1944 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction, “Deadline” 
described a superweapon made of radioactive elements. After the visit Jenkins 
realized that the U.S. was building an atomic bomb, and felt “very uncomfort- 
able thereafter.” Until the end of the war, in the interests of national security, 
“very few people have ever emulated an oyster more earnestly than 1 did from 

7. Rebooting “A Logic Named Joe” (Ferro and Swedin) 


that time on, where atomic-energy discussions were concerned!” (Jenkins, “Pro- 
posed Talk” 1) Science fiction could even be a threat to national security. 

His discomfort came not only from the possibility of a real leak but also 
from the risk that came from science fiction authors synthesizing, to his mind, 
fairly obvious information. Jenkins responded to the government agent: “I told 
him what I could about where Cartmill could have gotten the idea. There was 
a book published by the Bureau of Mines, a U.S. Government publication that 
stated definitely that when atomic energy was achieved it would be achieved 
through uranium” (“Guest of Honor Speech” 75). Jenkins wondered about him- 
self regarding information on radar, since he had written a story earlier that 
century that used infra-red waves as a type of radar on ships (“Guest of Honor 
Speech” 74). In a postwar lecture, Jenkins described how one of his ideas could 
not be published: 

[T]he thing that bothered me most was this infernal story in which 1 use gadgets 1 
thought wouldn’t actually work. 1 hadn’t sent them on because 1 thought them useless 
except for a story. Esquire bought the yarn, set it up in type, and had it illustrated. 
Then the Navy Department, looking at advance proofs, threw a most undignified 
sweating fit. Not only was publication forbidden, but even all proofs had to be 
destroyed, — and fast! I was violating basic naval security! ... and that yarn still can’t 
be published! And still it seems to me that the gadgets are too wild to work! (Jenkins, 
“Proposed Talk” 2) 

In 1926, Hugo Gernsback gave the emerging genre of scientifically-oriented 
and technologically-oriented fiction the name “scientifiction,” emphasizing his 
vision of the genre’s main purpose: predicting new scientific ideas and tech- 
nological advances. He later proposed that perhaps those first visualizing ideas 
in fiction should be given provisional patents. It is unclear whether Jenkins 
would have agreed. 

During the war, Jenkins’ ideas, like so many others’, were handed freely 
to the government. In addition, Jenkins did not seem inclined to pin a date on 
an idea for the sake of intellectual property. He said in 1963 that the ideas 
describing a “fourth-dimensional space-time continuum” like Einstein’s could 
be found in the 12th-century writings of Alain of Lille. He noted that he made 
a thermometer in his lab for fun, only to realize later it was exactly the type 
invented by Galileo. He had also “written down fifteen years ago ... the basic 
principle of a transistor and I didn’t have the sense enough to know it!” (“Guest 
of Honor Speech” 77) 

For Jenkins, old books, fact or fiction, were unrealized treasures. He found 
a description of “a water pail forge” in a book from the 19th century that he 
built and used (“Guest of Honor Speech” 77). He told a 1963 audience, “There 
are innumerable lots of such things. The scientific books that are outmoded, 
that are forgotten, contain an awful lot of stuff that simply got pushed aside — 
without being false in anyway.” He reminded the audience: “These old books 
to be found in our friendly corner secondhand book shop contain the answers 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

to questions that are being asked now and which nobody is answering.” He 
continued, “Much more important, I think, is the fact that they undoubtedly 
contain the answers to some questions that nobody will be asking until the day 
after tomorrow.” He ended the discussion by telling the story of a friend “in 
the business of manufacturing components for guided missiles” whose plant 
had burned down. His friend told him “that the thing that hurt, that pained 
most, was the burning of his old antiquated nineteenth century books that 
contained so much that was new and novel and interesting” (“Guest of Honor 
Speech” 78). 

The Jenkins criteria for what constitutes science fiction are strongly held 
and fairly well developed in his letters. In a letter to Alonzo Deen Cole, a creator 
for the proposed “The Monster” series, he stated that a science fiction story 
needs a “gimmick which affects people’s lives” and took Cole to task for tech- 
nical and logical inconsistencies in a proposed script. He stated plainly that he 
did not want the name “Murray Leinster” attached to anything purporting to 
be science fiction that was not.^’ 

He and others held high expectations for science fiction in the mid-1950s. 
A letter by Cole in support of “The Monster” argued, “In this mechanistic- 
atomic-jet propulsion-era, science-fiction must become the mystery and sus- 
pense basis for interesting drama. The detective story ... has displayed all of its 
possible gimmicks.... The Western ... [has] reached a similar saturation point.” 
Cole continued, “Science-fiction imposes no boundaries upon imagination, its 
frontiers are unlimited.” Cole also made the relevance of science fiction obvious: 
“[Ijts tales are of Tomorrow; not Today, though we may expressly state that 
the time of their action is Today. Our commodity is dramatic fantasy based on 
gruesome facts. 

Jenkins became enthusiastic when talking about the possibilities of imag- 
ination through fiction. In a proposed 1947 talk he argued, “1 insist that science 
fiction can be not only a window to be looked through to the future, but a 
French window which can be used as a door.” He enthused, “I’m suggesting ... 
technical articles from that very matter-of-fact magazine, ‘The Space Engineer’ 
of 1980 or 1990,” and continued, “If science-fictioneers can write the absolutely 
sound descriptions of devices that have come true in the past few years, long 
before they’re actual, why can’t they write perfectly sound technical comparisons 
of space-drives?” (Jenkins “Proposed Talk” 1). Apparently Jenkins felt confident 
that the individuals writing science fiction and the fiction they created could 
create the future they imagined. 

The Author and Prediction 

Jenkins belonged to a cadre of writers of fiction that mixed science fact 
and fiction in an almost seamless fashion. For example, in addition to their 

7. Rebooting “A Logic Named Joe” (Ferro and Swedin) 


work for the government mentioned above, both Asimov and de Camp wrote 
science popularization books and articles. These authors and many others wrote 
what has been termed “hard science fiction.” It has been successfully argued 
that hard science fiction did not create genuine scientific or technical novelty 
in its pages. Novelty came from scientists and engineers themselves. Science 
fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin maintained that “the future” is a metaphor^^ 
and Gary Westfahl, examining fiction generally labeled “hard,” has agreed that 
creative needs seem to outweigh an adherence to scientific veracity.^'’ 

However, the term “hard science fiction” came about decades after many 
stories were written that have since been labeled “hard” (Westfahl 3). It also 
appears that authors believe, at least publicly, that they are involved in scientific 
discovery. In an article in Space Magazine, John W. Campbell, Jr. writes: 

Science-fiction has the interesting characteristic of causing its own predictions to 
come true. Since the stories are frequently written as a spare-time hobby by profes- 
sional engineers — and thoroughly competent ones — they frequently contain sound 
engineering suggestions as to how a certain end can be achieved. The Manhattan 
Project scientists read science-fiction; so did the Nazi scientists working on [the] V- 

Many fans of science fiction, as represented by the pages of Astounding, 
seemed to share Campbell’s perspective. In the March 1946 issue of Astounding 
that “A Logic Named Joe” appeared in, there is also non-fiction. Campbell wrote 
a two-page article on the concerns of atomic war and how the general press 
failed to grasp its implications for what later would be called mutually assured 
destruction.^* There was also the second part of a 40 page article on storms and 
how satellites might be used to forecast weather.^’ Letters to the editor princi- 
pally focused on the science of previous issues. Two concern the working of 
gyroscopes on the V2 rocket. Another letter is about atomic weaponry: “people 
must wake up ... since the only thinking on the subject that is available is in 
the realm of science-fiction — which has ceased to be fiction — these stories 
should be available to the public. 

Given some level of adherence to scientific veracity, what do we then make 
of “A Logic Named Joe,” and science fiction in general, as predictions of the 
future? Futurology, it turns out, is difficult even for experts. George Wise finds 
that the accuracy of predictions by experts in their fields is “at best weakly 
related to general technical expertise and unrelated to specific expertise.”*' If 
that is generally true, then even if science fiction authors are experts in a field, 
they might stumble. In addition, creating a view of the future requires more 
than the elements of a particular technology that the author may be an expert 
on. World building requires attention to other fields such as sociology, psy- 
chology, or ecology that the author may know little about. Between that, the 
narrative needs of the story, any socio-political inclinations of the author, and 
the inevitable vagaries of history, a completely accurate depiction of the present 
from the vantage point of the past seems fairly unlikely. 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

But one doesn’t have to get 100 percent accuracy to either predict, or to 
even help create the future. In an upcoming book from McFarland, authors from 
several fields look at science fiction’s role in describing and creating the world 
we inhabit. Sociologist Thierry Bardini notes that despite a poor record of “arti- 
fact anticipation” people create and use artifacts through a cultural understand- 
ing that includes science fiction; from the perspective of literature and culture, 
Rafael C. Alvarado applies anthropological theories to create a concept of “cul- 
tural transduction” where the literary framework of an earlier period can provide 
a usable framework for a future one; historians of technology Paul Ceruzzi and 
Janet Abbate both show how science fiction creates metaphors for those research- 
ing and creating technology and how those metaphors can shape both techno- 
logical “trajectory” and public perceptions of the technology; and cultural 
theorist David Kirby shows how a single movie — in this case. The Lawnmower 
Man— reflected, directed, and popularized the ideas around virtual reality.^^ 
The direct connections some of these authors make between fiction and 
technical development are difficult to document in the case of “A Logic Named 
Joe” and personal computer development. There are no archived letters written 
by the inventor of the AJtair, Ed Roberts, or an individual instrumental in devel- 
oping what would become the Internet, J. C. R. Licklidder, thanking Jenkins 
for his inspirational story. No interviews with Alan Kay, one pioneer in the 
mouse-navigated graphical user interface at Xerox PARC, show gratitude for, 
or even awareness of, the story. However, all three of those inventors have 
shown an appreciation for the world building of science fiction. The name 
“Altair” was taken from both a Star Trek episode and the movie Forbidden 
Planet, and Licklidder called his idea for interconnected computers the “Inter- 
galactic Computer Network. Furthermore, Kay said in a speech at Stanford, 
while noting the imagination of Asimov’s fiction — as well as its limitations— 
that “[t]he best way to predict the future is to invent it.”^^ 


The continued recognition given to “A Logic Named Joe” for its prescient 
description of today indicates how it played a role in informing science fiction. 
Its ability to describe part of the human condition — regarding privacy, trust, 
and the like — shows how transcendent science fiction can be; how it is ulti- 
mately about people in a world of artifacts of their own creation. Science fiction, 
in turn, created the metaphors for those building computers. Science fiction 
introduced the concepts to a sometimes skeptical public. 

Jenkins would have understood this fully; to his mind it was science 
fiction’s intended purpose. He said: “I don’t know how many of you will realize 
offhand that the fun we get writing science fiction is not nearly so much simply 
including super-science as sneaking it across so you won’t notice” (“Guest of 

7. Rebooting “A Logic Named Joe” (Ferro and Swedin) 


Honor Speech” 78). Jenkins died just as the “logics” of the mid-1970s exhibited 
hints of becoming the household objects he described in “Joe.” Throughout 
his life, Jenkins never failed to see the connection between literary creations 
and the creative process— whether the end results were in a fictional or arti- 
factual form. Nor did he naively and universally give fiction primacy in the 
generation of ideas, as he fully realized the restrictions of the genre. However, 
if he had lived to see the IBM PC and the World Wide Web, he undoubtedly 
would have noted the connection to his own “A Logic Named Joe.” 


1. “A Logic Named Joe,” Dimension X (New York: NBC Radio, July 1, 1950); “A 
Logic Named Joe,” X Minus X (New York: NBC Radio, December 28, 1955). The 1950 
program is at the Murray Leinster Wikipedia entry, accessed February 15, 2010, at http://; the 1955 program is at Radio Plays Radio, 
accessed June 3, 2008, at See also Murray Leinster 
[Will F, Jenkins], “Letter from Jenkins Dated July 19, 1950,” Syracuse Lfniversity Special 
Collections, Will F. Jenkins Collection, Box 1. 

2. John W. Campbell, Jr., “The Analytical Laboratory,” Astounding Science-Fiction, 
37 (June, 1946), 45. To understand this regular feature of the magazine, see William 
Sims Bainbridge, “The Analytical Laboratory, 1938-1976,” Analog Science Fiction/Science 
Fact, 50 (January, 1980), 121-134. 

3. “Will Jenkins Dies,” [no author given] Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction 
Field, No. 175 (June 24, 1975), 1. 

4. Isaac Asimov, Patricia S. Warrick, and Martin H. Greenberg, introduction to “A 
Logic Named Joe,” Machines That Think: The Best Science Fiction Stories About Robots 
& Computers, ed. Asimov, Warrick, and Greenberg (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Win- 
ston, 1983), 279. 

5. Andy Duncan, “It’s All SF: Science Fiction, Southern Fiction, and the Case of 
Murray Leinster,” Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, 79 (Summer, 
2000), 62, 63. 

6. Leinster [writing as Jenkins] , “A Logic Named Joe,” Astounding-Science Fiction, 
37 (March, 1946), 140. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

7. Theodore Sturgeon, “Will Jenkins: An Appreciation,” Locus: The Newspaper of the 
Science Fiction Field, 175 (June 24, 1975), 1-2. 

8. Sam Moskowitz, “Murray Leinster,” Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Sci- 
ence Fiction, by Moskowitz (Cleveland: World Publishing Company, 1966), 47-65. Sub- 
sequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

9. Patent number: 2727427, Filing date: Mar 3, 1952, Issue date: Dec 1955, Inventor: 
Will F. Jenkins; Patent number: 2727429, Filing date: Nov 30, 1953, Issue date: Dec 
1955, Inventor: Will F. Jenkins. 

10. Richard Rickitt, Special Effects: The History and Technique (New York: Billboard 
Books, 2000), 69. 

11. Leinster, “Guest of Honor Speech,” The Proceedings; DISCON: The 21st World 
Science Fiction Convention; Washington — 1963, ed. DickEney (Washington, D.C.: DIS- 
CON, 1963), 72. Available at Syracuse University Special Collections, Will F. Jenkins 
Collection. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

12. Leinster, “Proposed Talk: Eastern Science Fiction Association, 3/2/47,” Syracuse 
University Special Collections, Will F. Jenkins Collection, Box 7, “Science Fiction Fan 
Clubs” folder, 3. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

13. Leinster, “To Build a Robot Brain,” Astounding Science Fiction, 53 (April, 1954), 
111 . 

14. Ralph Brendler, “Letter from Mr. Brendler to Jenkins, January 21, 1958,” Syracuse 
University Special Collections, Will F. Jenkins Collection, Box 1, “Bartholomew House 
1957-1958” folder. 

15. Leinster, “Book Idea,” Syracuse University Special Collections, Will F. Jenkins 
Collection, Box 69, 1. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

16. Desk Set (Twentieth-Century-Fox, 1957). 

17. The Living Machine (National Film Board of Canada, 1962). 

18. Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think,” Atlantic Monthly, 176 (July, 1945), 101-108. 
On its influence, see references to Douglas Engelbart and J. C. R. Licklidder in Thierry 
Bardini, Bootstrapping: Douglas Engelbart, Coevolution, and the Origins of Personal Com- 
puting (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 19-40. 

19. Leinster, “Vignette Ideas,” Syracuse University Special Collections, Will F. Jenkins 
Collection, Box 1, “Cole, Alonso” folder. 

20. Leinster, [writing as Will F. Jenkins-Murray Leinster] “Applied Science Fiction,” 
Analog Science Fiction/Science Pact, 80 (November, 1967), 109. 

21. August Derleth, “Letter from August Derleth, Arkham House Publishers, to Jenk- 
ins, dated November 3, 1951,” Syracuse University Special Collections, Will F. Jenkins 
Collection, Box 1, “Arkham 48-66” folder. 

22. Leinster, “Letter from Jenkins to Mr. Margulies, April 22, 1946,” Syracuse Uni- 
versity Special Collections, Will F. Jenkins Collection, Box 1, “Crown” folder. 

23. Leinster, “Dear Deene,” Syracuse University Special Collections, Will F. Jenkins 
Collection, Box 1, “Cole, Alonzo Deen 50-52” folder, 2. 

24. Leinster, “The Monster Proposal,” Syracuse University Special Collections, Will 
F. Jenkins Collection, Box 1, “Cole, Alonzo Deen 50-52” folder, 3. 

25. Ursula K. Le Guin, “Introduction” to 1976 edition of The Left Hand of Darkness 
(New York: Ace Books, 1976), [xvi]. 

26. Gary Westfahl, Cosmic Engineers: A Study of Hard Science Fiction (Westport, CT: 
Greenwood Press, 1996), 119-120. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edi- 

27. Campbell, “The Science of Science-Fiction.” Space Magazine, 1 (Winter, 1949), 
5. Essay originally published in Atlantic Monthly (May, 1948). Interestingly, as one exam- 
ple of such prophetic science fiction, Campbell (while not mentioning Leinster by name) 
offers what is clearly a summary of Leinster’s 1932 story “Politics.” 

28. Campbell, “Concerning the AtomicWar,” Astounding Science-Fiction, 37 (March, 
1946), 5, 178. 

29. Jack Williamson, “Vnpredicttihle," Astounding Science Fiction, 37 (March, 1946), 

30. Roy V. Hughson, letter, “Brass Tacks,” Astounding Science-Fiction, 37 (March, 
1946), 177. 

31. George Wise, “The Accuracy of Technological Forecasts, 1890-1940,” Futures, 8 
(October, 1976), 412. 

32. Bardini’s “A (Brave New) World is More than a Few Gizmos Crammed Together: 
Science Fiction and Cyberculture,” R. C. Alvarado’s “Science Fiction as Myth: Cultural 
Transduction in Gibson’s Neuromancer,” Paul E. Ceruzzi’s “Manned Space Flight and 
Artificial Intelligence: ‘Natural’ Trajectories of Technology,” Janet Abbate, “True Risks? 
The Pleasures and Perils of Cyberspace,” and David A. Kirby’s “Creating a Techno- 
Mythology for a New Age : The Production History of The Lawnmower Man" will appear 
in an anthology entitled Science Fiction and Computing: Essays on Interlinked Domains, 
ed. David L. Ferro and Eric S. Swedin (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishers, forthcom- 

7. Rebooting “A Logic Named Joe” (Ferro and Swedin) 


33. Swedin and Ferro, Computers: The Life Story of a Technology (Baltimore: Johns 
Hopkins University Press, 2007), 86, 112. 

34. Alan C. Kay, “Predicting the Future,” Stanford Engineering, 1 (Autumn, 1989), 1- 
6. Available at Originally presented as 
an address before the 20th annual meeting of the Stanford Computer Forum. 


Victims of a Globalized, 
Radicalized, Technologized 
World, or. Why the Beatles 
Needed Help! 

Lynne Lundquist 

It is a film that is routinely ignored or derided as an inferior follow-up to 
a more admired predecessor. Despite features that obviously identify the him 
as science hction — including a serum that shrinks a man to the size of an insect 
and a “relativity condenser” that slows down time — it has never been examined 
in the context of science hction him and or included in references like Phil 
Hardy’s The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies (1984) or David Wingrove’s 
Science Fiction Film Source Book (1985). And since it seems to be set in the pres- 
ent, the him manifests no desire or intention to predict the future. Still, Richard 
Lester’s Flelp! (1965) arguably commands attention on the forty-hfth anniver- 
sary of its release as its era’s most accurate depiction of the twenty-hrst-century 
world we now live in. 

One lesson to be learned from the him, then, is that genuinely visionary 
prophecies may result not from careful consideration of scientihc realities and 
logical extrapolation, but rather serendipity; for the elements that made Help! 
so prescient largely resulted from the simple desire of its creators to craft a him 
that would be “completely unlike the original” Beatles him, A Hard Day’s Night 
(1964).' That had been a cheap, black-and-white him; this him would be a more 
expensive color him. A Hard Day’s Night had limited itself to drab English loca- 
tions; this him would include glamorous international settings. And the hrst 
him had strived to provide a sanitized but realistic portrayal of the Beatles’ 
daily life; this him would be an extravagant fantasy, generating conhict with 
cartoonish adversaries and absurd situations. To a remarkable extent, these 
practical considerations engendered a him that today seems to eerily anticipate 
contemporary events and concerns. 


8. Globalized, Radicalized, Technologized (Lundquist) 


The first characteristic of Help! which stands out is that it displays a world 
being transformed by a process of globalization, as once-distant realms and 
people now regularly come into contact and grow interconnected to form a 
single community transcending national boundaries. Released at a time when 
many Americans had never flown in an airplane or left the vicinity of their 
upbringing, Help! illustrates what was then the peripatetic lifestyle of wealthy 
jet-setters and would soon become the peripatetic lifestyle of ordinary citizens. 
The Beatles live in London, but to go on vacation, they can fly to the Alps for 
world-class skiing; when they feel threatened there, John Lennon can rush to 
a ticket window and request a quick return to “London”; and when even Buck- 
ingham Palace does not provide the Beatles with enough protection, they can 
be whisked off to the Bahamas.^ It is not entirely without significance that one 
of the film’s songs, “Ticket to Ride” (performed in snowy Austria), describes a 
disgruntled woman who obtained a “Ticket to Ride” to get free from a 
boyfriend; for the film’s narrative celebrates precisely the freedom from per- 
manent confinement in one place that emerged from modern forms of trans- 

Indeed, it is striking to notice just how many methods of travel are featured 
in the film. True, people at times rely upon the ancient and not particularly 
far-ranging techniques of running (in the case of one character, assisted by 
crutches) and swimming (including a swimmer attempting to cross the English 
Channel who crops up in unexpected locations), but one also observes Paul 
McCartney riding a horse, two scientists pushing a baby carriage, and characters 
traveling by means of bicycles, sleds, skis, a horse-drawn carriage, a ski lift, 
cars, an ice cream truck, a tank, an elevator, a train, an inflatable boat, a yacht, 
a dirigible (the Goodyear Blimp), and airplanes. Forms of long-distance com- 
munication are featured as well, ranging from books and newspapers to bill- 
boards, walkie-talkies, radios, televisions, and telephones (even used by the 
Beatles to communicate from one end of their room to another). Further, 
though they are not used in the film, the Beatles posed for the cover of its 
soundtrack album using semaphore flags as another means of communication. 
(They originally spelled out “HELP,” but it was changed to the incongruous 
“NUJV” because the photographer thought it looked better.) 

As a consequence of this enhanced ability to travel and communicate, cul- 
tures from different parts of the globe now interact in new and stimulating 
ways. The ring that sets the film’s plot in motion was sent to Ringo Starr by a 
female fan in a far-off country (clearly India, though the region where the ring 
and villains come from is identified only as “the East”) who in a previous era 
would never have been aware of, or able to mail a package to, a British musician. 
In their London homes, the Beatles can enjoy reading an American comic book. 
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, fleetingly seen in the background. The leader of 
a bizarre Hindu cult. Clang (Leo McKern), is twice observed politely conversing 
with a Christian cleric, once with a Jewish rabbi sitting nearby. To obtain infor- 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

mation about their plight, the Beatles go to an Indian restaurant in London 
that is, with one exception, staffed by British workers pretending to be Indian. 
In one particularly cross-cultural scene, an escaped tiger from India, raised in 
a Berlin zoo before being moved to London, is subdued by the sound of British- 
ers singing the “Ode to Joy” from the Ninth Symphony of German composer 
Ludwig van Beethoven. 

The hope had been that such heightened contact between people from dif- 
ferent cultures would inspire better understanding and peaceful co-existence, 
but as Help! demonstrates, it can also lead to violent conflict. In previous cen- 
turies, four British musicians would have had nothing to fear from an Indian 
cult; the two groups would probably know nothing about each other and, even 
if news about one group somehow reached the other, it would require a rare, 
difficult, and time-consuming journey for one group to actually encounter the 
other. By the 1960s, however, members of such a cult can easily learn about the 
Beatles by watching them on television, as occurs in one scene, and if so 
inclined, can purchase plane tickets and travel to London to meet them. Fur- 
thermore, if they have reasons to strongly dislike the Beatles, they can attempt 
a violent attack against them. 

This is all true, one might say, but why would such a cult feel animosity 
toward some western musicians? An answer to that question brings up the 
aspect of Help! that today seems most prophetic. Literally, as the McGuffin to 
keep the story going, the ring received and worn by Ringo is coveted by the 
Indians, who need it to complete the ritual sacrifice that is central to their reli- 
gion; and after Ringo has worn the ring long enough to qualify as a sacrificial 
victim, they shift from attempting to seize the ring to attempting to kill Ringo. 
However, as they are more and more exposed to the technology and culture of 
Europe and America, one might imagine that these cultists would become more 
westernized, more secular, and less inclined to cling to ancient beliefs and cus- 
toms. They would be emulating, in other words, the character Ahme (Eleanor 
Bron), who while officially a member of the cult has now, clearly, rejected their 
doctrines, looks comfortable in western clothes and settings, and happily inter- 
venes again and again to save Ringo and the other Beatles from the machinations 
of her ostensible leader. Obviously the screenplay’s authors, Marc Behm and 
Charles Wood, thought that the modern-day persistence of such antiquated 
beliefs was implausible and, solely seeking to create an amusing fantasy, envi- 
sioned this cult as exactly the sort of silly villains that their fantastic story 

However, as the film depicts the other cultists, despite increasing famil- 
iarity with western ways, actually becoming more fanatical, not less fanatical, 
about their religion, in keeping with the plot’s escalating action, it inadvertently 
illustrates exactly what happened throughout the world during the last fifty 
years: as people in Asia and Africa were increasingly exposed to secular western 
cultures, followers of certain religions outside of that milieu often responded 

8. Globalized, Radicalized, Technologized (Lundquist) 


defiantly, growing more fiercely devoted than ever before to age-old beliefs and 
in some cases grew determined to defend those beliefs with violent attacks on 
Americans and Europeans perceived as threats to their religions. 

In a nutshell, then. Help! may be the first film that depicts westerners being 
repeatedly victimized by homicidal terrorists motivated by intense devotion to 
a religion associated with Asia — the phenomenon which has recently dominated 
the news, and one rarely if ever anticipated in other science fiction works. True, 
the film features terrorists from an offshoot of Hinduism, not Islam, but there 
are real-life Hindu terrorists who have resorted to violence (though their activ- 
ities, so far, have been confined to the Indian subcontinent). And while a few 
of Clang’s assaults upon the Beatles might look farcical — a magnetized elevator, 
or a lavatory hand drier powerful enough to suck in Ringo’s arm — some of 
them — like firing a bazooka at a tank, setting off piles of explosives, or releasing 
poisonous gas— are, when viewed today, uncomfortably reminiscent of actual 
terrorist attacks that were widely reported in the mass media. 

What makes the cultists so dangerous in Help!, and what makes actual ter- 
rorists so dangerous today, is that despite ongoing devotion to an ancient reli- 
gion, they have access to, and are willing to employ, advanced scientific 
technology. Thus, while Clang and his associates sometimes brandish traditional 
weapons like swords, they also fire guns, use chain saws, drive cars, pilot air- 
planes, and communicate with walkie-talkies. And the Beatles are vulnerable 
to this mechanized mayhem, in part, because they themselves are dependent 
upon advanced technology: unwilling to prepare their own food, they rely on 
vending machines in their home; unwilling to walk up stairs, they take an ele- 
vator; unwilling to dry their hands with paper towels, they walk to an electronic 
hand drier. All these habits provide openings for violent assaults upon Ringo 
and his ring. 

Thus, we can fully grasp precisely why the Beatles are in such dire straits: 
globalization has made them easily accessible to foreign opponents, radicalized 
those persons to the point where they wish to violently attack westerners, and 
provided them with sophisticated technological tools to make them formidable 
foes. This is the situation that contemporary residents of America and Europe 
find themselves in, as members of radical Islamic cults communicate by means 
of the Internet and gather advanced weaponry in preparation for their next act 
of terrorism. 

However, science is also a menace to the Beatles, and modern citizens, in 
a second way; for it is not merely the devices invented by scientists, but scientists 
themselves, who may become threats. In the film, their efforts to remove Ringo’s 
ring lead the Beatles to two British scientists. Foot (Victor Spinetti) and Alger- 
non (Ray Kinnear), who immediately begin to covet the ring for themselves 
because of its amazing properties. Soon, then, the Beatles are facing attacks 
from two fronts, as the scientists join the cultists in launching their own violent 
efforts to obtain the ring. In some respects. Foot is precisely what John calls 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

him — the standard “mad scientist” of old science fiction films, given to mut- 
tering that possession of the ring would enable him to “rule the world.” How- 
ever, there is also something distinctly modern about these scientists’ motives. 
They constantly complain about the inadequate financial support they receive 
from the British government, and the second-rate equipment they must rely 
upon — Foot observes that one device “would work if the government would 
spend some more money”— and their desire for the ring at times seems less a 
quest for power and more an effort to garner more funding; Algernon jokes 
that Foot “is out to rule the world — if he can get a government grant,” and 
Foot at one point hopes to “interest the military” by seizing and showing them 
the ring. 

Now, could it possibly be that actual scientists might be tempted to launch 
violent attacks against innocent civilians simply to get more money from their 
government? It has already happened. In 2001, after the World Trade Center 
was destroyed, a second instance of terrorism captured everyone’s attention: 
somebody was mailing powder carrying the deadly disease of anthrax to various 
parties in an obvious and sometimes successful effort to kill them. After con- 
sidering other suspects, investigators eventually identified the culprit: an Amer- 
ican scientist named Bruce E. Ivins, who as The Los Angeles Times noted “stood 
to gain financially from massive federal spending in the fear-filled aftermath 
of those killings” because he was “listed as a co-inventor on two patents for a 
genetically engineered anthrax vaccine” and “listed as a co-inventor on an appli- 
cation to patent an additive for various biodefense vaccines.”^ In other words, 
Ivins set out to murder innocent people as part of a scheme to get the govern- 
ment to provide more generous subsidies for his research — which is precisely 
why Foot and Algernon were willing to murder Ringo to obtain his ring. 
Granted, Ivins’s plot may represent the only example to date of a working sci- 
entist who turns to terrorism, but with seemingly increasing numbers of sci- 
entists falsifying research findings in efforts to boost their reputations and bank 
accounts, one cannot discount the possibility that, in hard economic times, 
other scientists may also resort to violence if it seems likely to be profitable. 
And Help! was perhaps the first film to predict such activities. 

Considering what the film has to say about globalization and its threats, 
we may be able to interpret what was previously regarded merely as random 
absurdity: the fact that Help! concludes by announcing, “This film is respectfully 
dedicated to the memory of Mr. Elias Howe who, in 1846, invented the sewing 
machine.” Figuratively, one might say that advanced means of transportation 
and communication have, in effect, sewn together different parts of the world 
to form one vast tapestry, making Howe’s sewing machine a metaphor for the 
process that threatened the Beatles’ lives. But the invention also represents a 
more literal milestone in the history of technology: while machines had previ- 
ously become part of everyday life, they had been devices that users understood 
and could, if necessary, construct or repair. The sewing machine may be the 

8. Globalized, Radicalized, Technologized (Lundquist) 


first machine that people regularly brought into their homes and used every 
day without really understanding how it worked; and while making advanced 
technology available to people without a scientific background proved a boon 
in many respects, it also opened the door to the true problem of terrorism: that 
people like Clang, without knowing how to build or fix advanced weapons, can 
readily obtain those weapons and figure out how to use them to deadly effect. 
That is, if the fanatics seeking the ring had relied only on swords, the Beatles 
would have had little to worry about; it is resources like explosives, bazookas, 
powerful magnets, and a shrinking serum that make them a genuine menace. 
Similarly, while we can now take precautions to ensure that terrorists with box 
cutters cannot commandeer an airplane, experts in counter-terrorism con- 
stantly worry that terrorists will obtain and use biological, chemical, or even 
nuclear weapons against perceived foes. It happened at least once — the sarin 
gas attacks on Japan’s subways in 1995 — and may happen again at any time. 

One final question: if Help! indeed accurately predicted the plight that cit- 
izens confront today, does it also say anything about possible solutions? The 
film does offer answers to the problem of terrorism, but these are not necessarily 

First, people who feel threatened can, like the Beatles, seek and obtain 
“protection,” though this may prove ineffectual. In the film, the soldiers 
recruited by Superintendent Gluck of Scotland Yard (Patrick Cargill), even as 
they surround the Beatles with tanks, do nothing to prevent an attempt to blow 
up the Beatles by means of explosives placed in an underground tunnel; later, 
by allowing the Beatles to get ahead of them while on a walk, the soldiers leave 
them exposed to another attack. While the white- uniformed Bahaman soldiers, 
despite their comically small numbers, are able to round up at least some 
cultists, they also fail to rescue Ringo from a final effort to make him their vic- 
tim. Similarly, today’s celebrities are always accompanied by trained body- 
guards; increasing numbers of government officials and presidential candidates 
are continuously guarded by the Secret Service; and ordinary citizens, at least 
when traveling by air, are protected by security personnel at airports and armed 
air marshals who travel in plain clothes on many flights. All these precautions, 
however, did not prevent Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from attempting to blow 
up an airplane landing in Detroit. 

Second, potential victims may be saved if there is a double agent within 
the terrorists’ ranks, working to thwart their plans. Although Ringo and the 
other Beatles did nothing to bring about this fortuitous situation, they are res- 
cued, time and again, simply because Clang’s associate Ahme is secretly on their 
side and regularly intervenes to protect them. In real life, government agents 
constantly strive to infiltrate terrorist groups to gain information about, and 
prevent, ruinous attacks. For example, attempts by four would-be terrorists to 
bomb New York synagogues failed because an FBI informant had joined the 
group and made the authorities aware of their plans. However, governments 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

are not always able to plant such informants, as evidenced by successful attacks 
by terrorists with no traitors in their midst. 

Third, in some situations, ordinary citizens may be able to fight back 
against terrorists. In the film, after passively allowing themselves to be the tar- 
gets of innumerable attacks throughout the film, the Beatles finally take George 
Harrison’s advice and go on the offensive, as they actively seek out the cultists’ 
transplanted temple in the Bahamas while riding bicycles (perhaps signaling 
an impulse to become less dependent upon modern technology) and participate 
in partially successful plots to trap their foes by having other members of the 
group disguise themselves as Ringo. In real life, on September 11, 2001, one 
hijacked airplane intended to demolish the White House instead crash-landed 
in a field because the plane’s passengers, alerted to what was going on elsewhere 
by cell phones, rose up against the terrorists and prevented the attack (albeit 
at the expense of their own lives). 

Fourth, if all else fails, people may have to rely on sheer dumb luck to be 
rescued from terrorist attacks. In the film, since Ahme knows nothing about 
Foot and Algernon’s efforts to obtain the ring, their attacks must be thwarted 
in this serendipitous fashion: when Foot brandishes a gun, it doesn’t go off, 
and when the scientists deploy the “relativity condenser” to slow down the Bea- 
tles, its excessive use of electricity blows the “royal fuse” and shuts down the 
equipment.'* And after Clang finally figures out that Ahme is working against 
him, captures her, and prepares to sacrifice Ringo, the hapless Beatle is spared 
by an implausible stroke of luck: the ring, which has stubbornly remained on 
his finger throughout the film despite vigorous efforts to remove it, suddenly 
falls off, meaning that he can no longer be sacrificed, and when Clang instead 
finds himself wearing the ring, he comically becomes the intended victim. Some 
actual terrorist efforts have been unsuccessful for similar reasons; thus, the only 
reason why that airplane landed safely in Detroit is that Abdulmutallab, fortu- 
itously, proved clumsily unable to detonate the explosives he was wearing. 

One final strategy for avoiding terrorism is illustrated not by Help! but by 
what happened to its stars after making that film. One reason why the Beatles 
had so effectively portrayed victims in Help! was that they themselves, during 
its production, actually felt like victims; John famously complained that he had 
been made “an extra in my own film” and that the film was entirely “out of our 
control” (cited in Gross 23, 24). Consequently, despite a contractual obligation 
to make a third film, the Beatles effectively refused to do so, ending their careers 
as film actors: in 1966, they began rejecting a series of scripts prepared for them, 
agreed to support the creation of an animated film. Yellow Submarine (1968), 
in the mistaken belief that it would be acceptable as their third film, and ulti- 
mately arranged for footage filmed for a television documentary to be refash- 
ioned as a feature film. Let It Be (1970), to provide the promised third Beatles 
film without their having to actually make a film. Furthermore, during their 
1966 world tour, the Beatles famously failed to appear at a scheduled event 

8. Globalized, Radicalized, Technologized (Lundquist) 


hosted by the First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos— because they had 
never agreed to do so— prompting the government to retaliate by, among other 
things, refusing to provide protection against a violent, angry mob as they were 
leaving the country, effectively exposing them to a form of government-spon- 
sored terrorism. Then, as a result of this and other unpleasant developments 
during that tour, the Beatles refused to tour again. By withdrawing from film- 
making and touring, the Beatles were essentially protecting themselves by 
“cocooning,” limiting themselves to the comforting confines of their homes 
and recording studios— until John, long after the Beatles’ breakup, chose to 
enjoy the freedom of New York City, happily walked around without body- 
guards, and consequently became the target of a deranged assassin who had 
just flown in from Hawaii, tragically illustrating the dangers of contemporary 
life that he and the other Beatles had once avoided. And many ordinary citizens, 
fearful of terrorism and other threats, are now responding, as the Beatles 
responded, by declining to travel and spending most of their time at home. 

Thus, the ultimate irony of globalization may be that many people, feeling 
the risks outweigh the benefits, will refuse to take advantage of its many oppor- 
tunities for cross-cultural interaction and choose to live as their ancestors were 
forced to live, constantly confined to the small, homogeneous regions where 
they reside. The only difference is that today, such cocooned individuals can 
employ improved communication systems to stay in touch with the world by 
means of television, radio, cell phones, and the Internet. And one thing they 
can do on their computers, of course, is to watch downloaded footage from 
Help! and perhaps find a special relevance to their cloistered, anxiety-ridden 
lives in the lyrics of its title song. Whether we will really receive needed “help” 
to deal with the insecurities of our changed contemporary lives remains to be 
seen, but at least watching this uniquely prescient film can entertainingly and 
incongruously make all of its tragic aspects briefly seem more like a comedy. 


1. Edward Gross, The Fab Films of the Beatles (Las Vegas, NV: Pioneer Books, 1990), 
23. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

2. He/p.' (United Artists, 1965). 

3. David Willman, “Suspect Stood to Gain from Anthrax Panic,” The Los Angeles 
Times, August 2, 2008, Al; at http://articles.latimes.eom/2008/aug/02/nation/ 
na-anthrax2 . 

4. One reliable expert on the Beatles, Mark Lewisohn, called the device a “Relativity 
Cadenza” in The Complete Beatles Chronicle (1992; London: Hamlyn, 2003, 188); how- 
ever, when I viewed the film, the word sounded more like “condenser,” and that does 
make more sense. 


“A Journey Beyond the Stars” 

2001: A Space Odyssey and 
the Psychedelic Revolution 
in 1960s Science Fiction 

Rob Latham 

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey had a major cultural impact when 
released in 1968, but also had a significant subcultural impact within the genre 
of science fiction. SF authors and fans debated, often quite contentiously, the 
film’s scientific accuracy, aesthetic ambition, and the implications of its appeal to 
mainstream viewers. 2001 also became a potent indicator of just how deeply issues 
within the Sixties counterculture — especially the messianic transcendentalism 
of the psychedelic “revolution”— had penetrated into and permeated the SF scene 
by 1968. Divisions of opinion over the film often devolved into philosophical 
and political differences regarding the mystical subordination of rationality and 
merits of synthetic self-transformation. These divisions overlapped, while not 
quite mapping onto, the spreading conflict over the so-called “NewWave,” which 
divided conservative fans who defended the forms and values of traditional “hard” 
SF from others who favored a more aesthetically experimental and countercul- 
turally responsive “speculative” fiction. This chapter examines the reception of 
2001 within the SF community, with a particular eye to the ways it initially drew 
upon — and subsequently informed — the disputes over the New Wave within the 
genre. An animating concern will be the ways in which 1960s SF was infiltrated 
and altered by exchanges with the contemporary counterculture. 

The roots of New Wave SF can be traced to the British magazine New 
Worlds, specifically a 1962 guest editorial by J. G. Ballard entitled “Which Way 
to Inner Space?” A scathing manifesto calling for an overhaul of the genre’s 
characteristic themes and styles, Ballard’s essay rejected straightforward tales 
of interstellar adventure in favor of more oblique excursions into shadowy 
realms of the psyche : 


9. “A Journey Beyond the Stars” (Latham) 


I’d like to see more psycho-literary ideas, more meta-biological and meta-chemical 
concepts, private time-systems, synthetic psychologies and space-times, more of the 
sombre half-worlds one glimpses in the paintings of schizophrenics, all in all a com- 
plete speculative poetry and fantasy of science.' 

When Ballard’s friend and fellow ideologue Michael Moorcock took over 
the helm of New Worlds in Spring, 1964, this inner space agenda gained a promi- 
nent platform. Moorcock, like Ballard, celebrated avant garde writers such as 
William S. Burroughs as pioneers of a new form of SF “which is unconventional 
in every sense. In an editorial entitled “Symbols for the Sixties,” Moorcock 
demanded an engagement with the militant attitudes and experimental lifestyles 
of the youth counterculture, claiming that SF should “use images apt for today” 
and feature “characters fitted for the society of today” rather than recycling 
outworn ideas. ^ According to SF author Thomas M. Disch, Ballard’s “inner 
space” catchphrase would soon be perceived, by both partisans and opponents 
of the New Wave, as “shorthand for sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.”"' 

Indeed, representations of drug use featured prominently in New Wave 
fiction, perhaps nowhere more brilliantly than in Brian W. Aldiss’s “Acid Head 
Wars,” a series of stories (published in New Worlds and later gathered as Barefoot 
in the Head [1969] ) set in a near-future Europe pixilated by bombardments of 
weaponized hallucinogens. A delirious evocation of a collective acid fantasy, 
Aldiss’s novel mimics the linguistic kaleidoscope of James Joyce’s Finnegans 
Wake in its effort to capture the texture of irremediably stoned consciousness. 
The psychedelic messiah at the story’s center, Cohn Charteris, prophesies an 
evolutionary quantum leap prompted by LSD in terms that eerily echo the plot 
of 2001: 

My friend[s], that was a short round we trod, less than two hundred degenerations 
the flintnapping cavesleepers first opened stareyes and we break down again with 
twentieth century perception of the circuit ... the time for real awakening from machi- 
nality and jump off the treads into a new race.^ 

In the face of crazed experiments such as Aldiss’s— and other hallucinatory 
extravaganzas like Chester Anderson’s The Butterfly Kid (1967) and Robert Sil- 
verberg’s Son of Man (1971) — members of SF’s Old Guard began muttering 
about “the overthrow of all standards and morals” that had seemingly afflicted 
the genre." SF editor Donald A. Wollheim, for example, accused Moorcock of 
mounting a “crusade” to convert benighted fans to a fiction at once hedonistic 
and downbeat, hlled with “shock words and shock scenes, hallucinatory fan- 
tasies, and sex” (102-105). The scandalized tone of these remarks reflects a 
growing generation gap within the field, with New Wave hction being lumped 
alongside other fashionable provocations by Old Guard fans. Many long-time 
readers felt the genre’s core values were under concerted assault: the stolid 
rocket jockeys of the pulp tradition were now seen, by the New Wave cohort, 
not only as boringly square but as complidt agents of a faceless, amoral tech- 
nocracy-in Disch’s words, “human robots inhabit[ing] landscapes that mir- 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

rored their own alienation.”^ The NewWave’s “inner space” agenda converged 
with the counterculture critique of what Theodore Roszak called “the myth of 
objective consciousness,” a world-view that represses the body’s sensual pleas- 
ures in favor of “disinterested” scientific curiosity and the cold calculations of 
technocratic expertise.* The NewWave’s delirious psychedelia became, for many 
Old Guard partisans, merely the most visible emblem of a fashionable yet dan- 
gerous nihilism pervading the movement that rejected scientific rationality at 
its core and thus broke sharply with the mainstream of SF history. 

The “generation gap” dividing Old Guard authors and editors like Woll- 
heim from avant-gardists like Moorcock and Disch also marked fan followers 
of these factions, who translated the struggle into their own hip lingo of sedition 
and reaction. On one hand, counterculturally-inclined fanzines, such as Ray- 
mond Fisher’s Odd, began promoting the view that “SF is just as fundamentally 
distrustful of the straight world as is the archetypal hippie, and both have appar- 
ently latched on to each other” in a productive process of mutual discovery.^ 
On the other hand, John J. Pierce’s ’zine Renaissance was established expressly 
to defend genuine SF against “the anti-science fiction of the ‘New Thing,’ with 
its emphasis on anti-heroes, plotless disaster stories, the condemnation of sci- 
ence and intelligence as fundamentally evil or useless and its aura of cynicism, 
cruelty and disgust.”'” The zine’s subtitle announced that Renaissance was the 
“semi-official organ of the Second Foundation,” a group modeled on the secret 
society in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, whose task was to preserve human 
learning amidst an encroaching Dark Age; according to “First Speaker” Lester 
del Rey, the New Wave was precisely such a barbaric incursion into SF’s citadel, 
whose commitment to science and reason must be protected from this cabal 
of tripped-out marauders." 

One prominent volley in this defense was del Rey’s caustic review of 
2001 in the July, 1968 issue of Galaxy, which drew the film smack into the middle 
of the enveloping New Wave wars. Briefly and grudgingly praising Kubrick’s 
technical expertise, del Rey proceeded to excoriate the film for its ponderous 
pace and pervasive “lack of rationality,” culminating in this stern denuncia- 

The real message ... is one Kubrick has used before: intelligence is perhaps evil and 
certainly useless.... Men can only be saved by some vague and unshown mystic expe- 
rience.... This isn’t a normal science-fiction movie at all, you see. It’s the first of the 
New Wave-Thing movies, with the usual empty symbolism. The New Thing advo- 
cates were exulting over it as a mind-blowing experience. It takes very little to blow 
some minds. But for the rest of us, it’s a disaster.'^ 

Del Rey does not name the New Wave disciples who embraced the film so 
feverishly, but there must have been lots of them, as Galaxy editor Frederik 
Pohl indicates when he says of del Rey’s review that “ [n] othing in the magazine’s 
history ever produced as much hate mail from readers, the majority of whom 
loved the film.”'* 

9. “A Journey Beyond the Stars” (Latham) 


In fact, the response to 2001 within the genre tended to break down along 
generational lines. As film historian John Brosnan observes: 

the old school of sf ... present[ed] Man as a plucky little creature who faces the Uni- 
verse with a slide-rule in one hand and a blaster in the other and soon has it cowering 
in fear. Kubrick, on the other hand, treats the human race with cold irony — pre- 
senting Man as an impotent, rather pathetic, helpless pawn of forces beyond his 
comprehension. “ 

This suggestion that humanity, left to its own meager devices, is incapable 
of transcendent achievement infuriated many older writers, who lambasted the 
movie for its chilly disdain towards its characters. As Ray Bradbury commented, 
“the test of the film is whether or not we care when one of the astronauts dies. 
We do not”; Kubrick’s “freezing touch ... has turned everything ... to ice.”'^ For 
their part, Pohl and son Frederik Pohl IV, who appreciated the film’s intellectual 
ambition, called the culminating Star Gate sequence, with its hallucinatory 
imagery, “wholly sense-free.... It is not merely that [these scenes] are not logical 
and explicable. Worse, it is impossible to construct a hypothesis under which 
they would become logical” (173; emphasis in original). 

Younger writers and fans, by contrast, embraced the film, not despite but 
because of its enigmatic, oracular quality. Alex Eisenstein, who reportedly saw 
the movie over eighty times (Pohl and Pohl 167), raved that it “is a prodigious 
work of art ... a breathtaking achievement.” Seeking to rebut criticisms like 
those of Bradbury, he affirmed that 2001 “is not a cold, intellectual construct, 
but a grand and eloquent message of the spirit” (cited in Pohl and Pohl 169). 
Earl Evers, writing in the official ’zine of the Los Angeles Fantasy Fan Federation, 
claimed that he had repeatedly felt, while watching the movie, that he was “hear- 
ing the name of God” and “feel[ingj the pure cosmic power vibrating.”'^ But 
then, as he acknowledged, he was high on LSD at the time. (Evers was probably 
the most prominent apostle of the chemical revolution in the fan community, 
penning a “Primer for Heads,” with detailed guidance on the powers of various 
substances, that appeared over four issues of Richard Geis’s ’zine Psychotic in 
1968.) The Star Gate sequence was, Evers avowed, “one of the most beautiful 
things I’ve ever seen.... The first few seconds, it was like ‘breaking through to 
the other side’” (45). The experience recalled “dreams I’ve had while sleeping 
off a Belladonna trip — endless Dopplers up and down the spectrum, eyeballs 
that become islands that become the eye of a hurricane seen on radar, and finally 
the arrival, the place taking shape as a map, then as a series of surrealistic land- 
scapes, never quite coming clear” (45). 

In a review-essay, “The Blown Mind on Film,” published in the venerable 
Hugo-winning fanzine Warhoon in September 1970, Walter Breen — also well- 
known as a world-class numismatist, founding member of NAMBLA, and Mar- 
ion Zimmer Bradley’s husband — argued at great length that 2001 expressed “a 
frankly esoteric or occult frame of reference: ancient Jupiter and Saturn sym- 
bolism, the law of karma. Inner Planes after-death survival,” all conveyed 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

through imagery whose “total effect ... so closely parallels that of LSD visions 
as to restimulate such experience in some viewers.”'^ Breen concludes that the 
evidence is overwhelming that “Clarke and/or Kubrick” had intimate personal 
knowledge of hallucinogenic drugs, “probably during the earliest experiments 
when the pure Sandoz product was available (far more potent than any black- 
market LSD)” (24). Breen reports on Clarke’s appearance at the 1968 Lunacon 
in New York City, where he faced a barrage of questions from puzzled fans who 
demanded to know what was going on in the movie’s final sections. “Clarke 
refused to discuss it in detail ... save to insist that the meanings were there and 
would have to be thought out by viewers,” which Breen takes as proof of Clarke’s 
endorsement of “human metamorphic, out-of-body evolution — as in Child- 
hood’s £«d — and his familiarity [presumably from his long residence in Sri 
Lanka] with the law of karma” (22). This world-view, Breen then suggested, 
essentially tallied with the “inner space” revolution going on within the genre: 
2001 affirms that “it is possible to journey at least mentally ... to accessible 
realms where time is ... stretched, compressed, shuttled back-and-forth in, 
twisted spirally or even mirror-imaged at will” and “where space is something 
that can be stepped around rather than laboriously traversed” (24). 

While Clarke himself would probably have resisted this alignment with 
NewWave experimentation, Breen’s comments demonstrate that many SF fans, 
immersed in the toils of an epochal controversy over the genre’s ideological 
contours, were baffled at this hard-SF champion’s apparent apostasy, his sudden 
conversion to the ranks of mind-blown inner-spacemen. Debates about Clarke’s 
role in the final film — and what SF’s Old Guard saw as his potential culpability 
for its drug-addled, mystical messianism — predictably took front and center 
as the genre debated the movie’s cultural fallout. Del Rey, in his review, sug- 
gested that the SF community would have been better served if someone had 
simply filmed one of Clarke’s classic tales of space adventure, such as Earthlight 
(1955), rather than concocting this half-baked metaphysical light-show. Pohl 
and Pohl suggested that Clarke had been ill-served by Kubrick, that in fact his 
novelization of the screenplay, published concurrently with the film’s release, 
offered at least a semblance of extrapolative rigor, though ultimately it wasn’t 
clear whether his version of the story “is the same interpretation Kubrick 
intended” (169). On the other side were defenders of the film like SF author 
George Turner, who argued, in a symposium on 2001 published in the Australian 
Science Fiction Review in September 1968, that “Kubrick is a greater artist than 
Clarke could ever pretend to being,” taking Clarke’s dry ideas and “translatjing 
them] into comprehensible symbols” in a “breathtaking display of virtuosity.”'® 
Clarke himself, while clearly discomfited by some of the more outre counter- 
cultural takes on the movie and admittedly irritated by Kubrick’s endless tin- 
kering and dithering that stretched the project out over four long years, resolutely 
refused to reject the finished product even in the face of Old Guard complaints— 
and, of course, it is worth remembering (as Breen notes) that Clarke’s own fictive 

9. “A Journey Beyond the Stars” (Latham) 


output, for all its high-tech scientism, had always shown a lingering fondness 
for mystic reveries and flamboyant gestures of transcendence. 

The most scathingly hilarious verdict on the relative contributions of 
Clarke and Kubrick came some years later from John Clute, in a review of 
Clarke’s 1975 novel Imperial Earth that appeared in New Worlds Ten (a paperback 
anthology series, edited by various hands, that replaced Moorcock’s magazine 
after it folded in 1971). Clute depicts the collaboration between the two men 
as a Faustian pact with the devil: a credulous Clarke, devoted to reason and the 
utopian perfection of humanity, is approached by the wily, “mesmeric” Kubrick, 
whose views of human nature are considerably darker.'^ Appearing mysteriously 
in Clarke’s bedroom at midnight, Kubrick pitches the project to him as essential 
to revitalize the enlightenment spirit in a world grown bleak and strange: 

You gotta show us the high-road out of Shitsville where it sometimes looks like we’re 
for the dark like, you know, like maybe we shoulda deepsixed Newton and all those 
other sleepwalker fruitcakes back when before they had a chance to dump us here 
in Shitsville, Arthur, where the centre don’t hold [233]. 

Clarke promises, with valiant naivete, to do his utmost, and Kubrick leaves the 
meeting gloating to himself: 

Do you know what I’m going to do, Arthur? I’m going to take the script you give me, 
full of expansive bland technological and humanist optimism as I’m sure it will be, 
and out of your dreams for the future I’m going to make 2001, A Space Odyssey. Ha 
ha ha. Where your heroes are makers and doers transparent to the light of reason 
within them defining their natures, mine will be stale hollow puppets, victims of the 
technology ... your heroes integrate with smiling.... I’ll just work a sign-change, a semi- 
otic nudge, Arthur, and everyone will be able to see that beneath your dreams of 
immanent reason squats Shitsville, where we live [233-234; emphasis in original]. 

In Clute’s mordant tongue-in-cheek scenario, Kubrick manipulates and tricks 
Clarke into providing him with a shiny rationalist alibi for a dark irrationalist 

Clute’s New Wave-ish mockery of Clarke’s childlike faith in reason actually 
lines up, in some ways, with the anti-New Wave critique of the movie. Old 
Guard critics such as del Rey and Pohl excoriated the film’s depiction of scien- 
tists and astronauts as soulless ciphers, whereas it is clear from reading Clarke’s 
novelization that he considered characters like Heywood Floyd and David Bow- 
man to be savvy and capable, if not heroic, figures. The words they speak are 
Clarke’s, but Kubrick — through his mise-en-scene and direction of actors— 
subtly shifted the tone, and they come across as smug, emotionless drones com- 
pletely dwarfed by cosmic immensities. Many critics of 2001 within the genre 
essentially agreed with Clute’s tongue-in-cheek verdict: that a too-trusting 
Clarke had been hoodwinked by a devious trickster whose attitudes aligned 
more with the New Wave than they did with traditional hard SF. Of course, del 
Key’s prediction that the film would, as a result, be a “box-office disaster ... and 
thus set major science-fiction movie making back another ten years” was way 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

off base (194). Indeed, the film’s unprecedented success with mainstream view- 
ers, combined with its “mind-blowing” appeal to certain factions of the fan 
community, not only made it the highest grossing SF film released to date, but 
also did much to bolster the ideological vision of the nascent New Wave — 
hence the Old Guard’s dyspeptic reactions. The film remains one of the most 
visible monuments to the crossover between SF and the youth counterculture 
that the New Wave movement both manifested and promoted. 


1. J. G. Ballard, “Which Way to Inner Space?,” New Worlds, 118 (May, 1962), 118. 

2. Michael Moorcock, “A New Literature for the Space Age,” New Worlds, 142 
(May/lune, 1964), 3. 

3. Michael Moorcock, “Symbols for the Sixties,” New Worlds, 148 (March, 1965), 3. 

4. Thomas M. Disch, The Dreams Our Stujf is Made Of: How Science Fiction Con- 
quered the World (New York: Free Press, 1998), 108. 

5. Brian W. Aldiss, Barefoot in the Head (New York: Ace, 1969), 165. 

6. Donald A. Wollheim, The Universe Makers: Science Fiction Today (New York: 
Harper & Row, 1971), 104. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

7. Thomas M. Disch, “Introduction: On Saving the World,” The Ruins of Earth: An 
Anthology of Stories of the Immediate Future, ed. Disch (New York: Putnam, 1971), 5. 

8. Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic 
Society and its Youthful Opposition (New York: Anchor, 1969), 208. 

9. Richard Gordon, “Brit American (Ob)Scene and Observed,” Odd, 18 (Spring, 
1968), 88. 

10. John J. Pierce, “Prospectus,” Renaissance: A Semi-Official Organ of the Second 
Foundation, 1 (Winter, 1969), 1. 

11. As explained in Lester del Rey, “Other Times, Other Values,” Renaissance: A Semi- 
Official Organ of the Second Foundation, 1 (Winter, 1969), 2-4. 

12. Del Rey, Review of 2001- A Space Odyssey, Galaxy, 26 (July, 1968), 194. Subsequent 
page references in the text are to this edition. 

13. Frederik Pohl, note, in Pohl and Frederik Pohl IV, Science Fiction Studies in Film 
(New York: Ace, 1981), 181. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

14. John Brosnan, Future Tense: The Cinema of Science Fiction (New York: St. Martin’s, 
1978), 179-180. 

15. Ray Bradbury, cited in Brosnan, 179. 

16. Earl Evers, “2001 Light Years from Home,” Shangri L’Affaires, 74 (September 1, 
1968), 43-44. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

17. Walter Breen, “The Blown Mind on Film,” Warhoon, 24 (August, 1968), 23, 24. 
Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

18. George Turner, in Turner, Lee Harding, Mongo MacCallum, and Bruce Gillespie, 
“A Symposium on 2001: A Space Odyssey,” Australian Science Fiction Review, 17 (Sep- 
tember, 1968), 5. 

19. John Clute, “Arthur C. Clarke’s Clone,” New Worlds Ten, ed. Hilary Bailey (Lon- 
don: Corgi, 1976), 233. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 


The Endless Odyssey 

The 2001 Saga and Its Inability 
to Predict Humanity’s Future 

Gary Westfahl 

In a literary marketplace where sequels to successful works are almost 
inevitable, it is unsurprising that one of the grandest and most evocative epics 
in science fiction has generated, by one count, no fewer than nineteen sequels 
involving four different authors. What is surprising is that, despite these efforts 
to continue this story, it remains conspicuously incomplete— for reasons that 
convey important messages about the inherent limitations of science fiction 
when attempting to predict the eventual future of humanity. 

I refer to Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)' and the novel 
of that name simultaneously written by co-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke; for 
while its namesake’s hero, Homer’s Odysseus, finally came home after twenty 
years of warfare and wandering, Kubrick and Clarke’s adventure has reached 
its forty- second year with no signs that it will ever arrive at its destination. 


X- X- 

To determine how this story should have continued, one logically begins 
by examining its conclusion. In the more cryptic film, aliens first place a mono- 
lith on Earth four million years ago, and after encountering a tribe of prehuman 
primates, the monolith somehow boosts their intelligence so they can use tools 
and are soon on their way to becoming fully human and conquering their world. 
Then, in 2001, a representative human, Dave Bowman, is directed by a second 
monolith on the Moon to a third monolith orbiting Jupiter, which transports 
him to a distant world through a hyperspatial Star Gate; the still-unseen aliens 
study this specimen while he lives out his life to determine exactly how this 
species should be further improved. Finally, a fourth monolith transforms Bow- 
man into the Star Child and teleports him back to Earth, where he will pre- 



Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

sumably deploy his new powers— including the ability to survive in the vacuum 
of space without a spacesuit — to make other humans into superhumans like 
himself. Thus, as the novel explains, “history as men knew it would be drawing 
to a close. The novel adds that the Star Child begins by noticing Earth’s nuclear 
weapons and, highly displeased, disintegrates them, indicating that these new 
beings are immensely powerful and abhor violence, reasonable assumptions to 
make about advanced beings in light of our civilization’s history. However, 
nothing else is said about this superhuman’s characteristics and attitudes, only 
the novel’s final comment that he “would think of something” to do next (221). 
A proper sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, then, would resolve these uncertainties 
by describing the further exploits of the transformed Bowman and other mem- 
bers of his new species. 

Yet the novel offers a different perspective on precisely what the aliens 
were doing, in the distant past and twenty-first century. Clarke’s first monolith 
is explicitly described as a teaching machine: transparent rather than black, 
it produces throbbing noises to hypnotically attract protagonist Moon- Watcher 
and his companions, entices them with images of well-fed primates like 
themselves to encourage their progress, forces their bodies through the motions 
of productive activities like tying knots and employing rocks as weapons, 
and chooses the most promising candidates for additional education. Thus, 
in the novel, the prehumans already had the intelligence to use tools, but 
simply needed training in how to use them; so the monolith instructs the 
brightest ones, who in turn communicate their new knowledge to their 

In Clarke’s first version of the story. Bowman’s final encounter with the 
monolith was also an educational, rather than a transformative, experience. 
This is gleaned from what might be called the first sequel to 2001, Clarke’s The 
Lost Worlds of 2001 (1972), which mingles nonfictional chapters about Clarke’s 
experiences during the filming of 2001 with narrative chapters providing 
fictional materials developed for the story that were omitted from the final film 
and novel. Its last fictional chapter, “Second Lesson,” offers Clarke’s original 
description of what happened to Bowman after leaving the Star Gate. Finding 
himself on a seemingly endless black plain, Bowman observes not a monolith 
but an enormous cube that begins generating bright lights and a drumming 
sound. Then, 

the turning wheels of light merged together, and their spokes, fused into luminous 
bars that slowly receded into the distance)....] Fantastic, fleeting geometrical patterns 
flickered in and out of existence, as the glowing grids meshed and unmeshed; and 
the hominid watched from its metal cave — wide-eyed, slack jawed, and wholly recep- 

The dancing moire patterns suddenly faded, and the rhythm sank to a barely 
audible, almost subsonic, pulsing throb. The cube was empty again; but only for a 

The first lesson having been moderately successful, the second was about to begin. ^ 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


What Bowman found, in other words, was another teaching machine — 
suggesting a different interpretation of what happened to him. If Bowman’s 
encounter is precisely analogous to that of his ancestors, it means that contem- 
porary humans already have the ability to become superhuman — but simply 
need training to learn how to do it. And, if he was now being educated in how 
to achieve this status, what happened when the elderly Bowman gestured toward 
the final monolith was not that he was transformed into the Star Child; rather, 
his lessons completed, he had figured out how to transform himself into the Star 
Child and proceeded to do just that. Afterwards, just as Moon-Watcher and 
other trained prehumans taught cohorts how to use tools, the Star Child, having 
returned to Earth, would in parallel fashion teach other humans how to become 
superhumans (which would explain how humanity’s alien manipulators could 
uplift the entire species with one advanced individual). Yet this story of human- 
ity’s further progress is exactly what all sequels to 2001— with one exception — 
contrive to avoid. 

X- X- 


If one discounts The Lost Worlds of 2001— which does little if anything to 
extend the original narrative — the first person to produce a sequel to 2001 was 
comic book writer-artist Jack Kirby. After years of working for Marvel Comics, 
he surprisingly defected to bitter rival DC Comics in 1969; when he returned 
to Marvel in the mid-1970s, the company decided that purchasing the rights 
to 2001: A Space Odyssey would provide this seasoned creator of epic comic 
adventures with a fitting challenge. First assigned to adapt the novel as a Marvel 
Treasury Special, Kirby would then write and draw a new comic book to expand 
upon and continue its story. 

To prepare for these tasks, Kirby presumably watched the film and read 
Clarke’s novel, and his approach may have been inspired by one sentence in 
the novel about Moon-Watcher’s monolith: “Neither it, nor its replicas scattered 
across half the globe, expected to succeed with all the scores of groups involved 
in the experiment” (25). So, according to the novel, there were many monoliths 
in different locations helping many prehumans learn how to become human; 
analogously, in the future, along with the monolith that encountered and cap- 
tured Bowman, there might be other monoliths in other regions of space waiting 
to encounter and transform other astronauts. This premise generated the stories 
in the first six issues of Kirby’s comic. 

The initial adaptation of the film was basically faithful to its source mate- 
rial, though Kirby introduced a distinctive version of the monolith as more 
squarish in size and hovering above the ground, its black surface covered with 
blue streaks representing its pulsating energies; and to prepare readers for his 
series, he explains that Bowman is only one of many future superhumans: “He 
is to be the first of many ‘new ones.’ For the monolith knows that there must 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

be more than one new seed to sow the harvest of a new species.”^ What 
was disturbing, and what did not bode well for this project, was that Kirby 
failed to grasp certain elements of the film’s plot. For one thing, Heywood R. 
Floyd obviously traveled to the Moon to gather information, not to impart it, 
yet Kirby believes that Floyd was actually sent to lead the lunar briefing; illog- 
ically, then, a visitor from Earth informs residents of the Moon about a mys- 
terious object that was discovered on the Moon. Kirby also misses the real 
reason why Bowman, stranded outside his spacecraft by the demented HAL, 
finds it difficult to re-enter the Discovery through an airlock: rushing to rescue 
crewmate Frank Poole, he forgot to don his space helmet, so he must briefly 
expose himself to the lethal vacuum of space to enter the airlock. Bowman 
employs the pod’s explosive bolts for an emergency exit from the rear, instead 
of using its front door, solely to minimize the time he will be unprotected in 
space. Yet Kirby numbly draws Bowman wearing his helmet and presents 
the re-entry as hazardous only because of the explosive bolts which, if he 
were wearing a helmet, he would not employ. These lapses suggest that Kirby, 
unlike Kubrick and Clarke, would not develop adventures meticulously 
based on scientific plausibility, a suspicion validated by later stories featuring 
battles with evil, humanoid aliens and an improbable swarm of destructive 

The first issue’s story, “Beast-Killer,” introduces the character of that name; 
though living in the “Miocene Age”^— roughly 3 to 5 million years ago, close 
to the era of Moon-Watcher — he looks like a human, not an apelike hominid, 
undoubtedly a concession to readers who can better sympathize with characters 
resembling themselves. Like Moon -Watcher, he has been communing with a 
mysterious monolith that he calls the “stone- spirit” (3), which taught him how 
to use a wooden club, but this proves an inadequate tool in hunting and killing 
large animals when he pauses to fend off other jealous humans seeking a 
wounded animal and the intended victim is able to escape. He visits the mono- 
lith, touches it to mentally communicate the problem, and is taught how to 
build a better weapon, a stone knife. After killing a saber-tooth tiger with this 
instrument, Beast-Killer has the additional idea of placing a blade on a long 
stick to construct a spear; he throws the spear, and in the next panel, recalling 
the jump-cut in 2001 from bone to spaceship, we see an astronaut in 2001, 
stranded on an asteroid, tossing an ancient alien artifact in frustration. 
Woodrow Decker, a descendant of Beast-Killer, is frustrated because he and 
another astronaut, assigned to search for signs of alien life in the asteroid belt, 
have found precisely the sort of evidence they sought, but their spacecraft has 
been destroyed, so they cannot tell others about the discovery. After a red crea- 
ture with tentacles attacks and kills his colleague Mason, a fleeing Decker 
encounters a hovering monolith, which dispatches him on a voyage through 
space to a bucolic field, where a lad greets him and urges Decker to accompany 
him to a nearby house. While walking. Decker rapidly ages and collapses. 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


whereupon another monolith appears to transform him into a fetus-like Star 
Child — although Kirby as noted calls these beings “the New Seed” — who 
promptly embarks upon a cosmic journey. 

This story set the pattern for the next two adventures: Kirby retells the 
original story with new characters while omitting the Floyd episode of a future 
man traveling to a second monolith which guides another human to a third 
monolith, to be transformed by a fourth monolith. Instead, there is first a pre- 
historic human who is trained or made more intelligent by a monolith, then 
an abrupt transition to a future human who is transported by a second monolith 
to be transformed into a New Seed by a third monolith. The other differences 
are that, as a concession to the comic book medium, Kirby includes as much 
action and violence as possible — in “Beast-Killer,” a battle between prehistoric 
humans and struggle with an exotic monster — and instead of having trans- 
ported astronauts finding themselves alone in an earthlike environment, Kirby 
introduces human companions who are presumably alien constructs, keeping 
the story lively with conversation. Further, while Kubrick and Clarke’s Star 
Child returned to Earth to contemplate his home, each of Kirby’s New Seeds, 
like Decker, “answers the call of the beckoning cosmos” (31) and travels into 
deep space — suggesting that beings who can survive in space would probably 
prefer to live there, their natural home, instead of enduring a planet’s confining 
gravity. Kirby finally provides his superhumans with another human trait — 
curiosity about their universe — since the third New Seed, in “Wheels of Death,” 
embarks upon his journey through space because he is “eager — impatient to 
thrive and discover.”*’ 

Interestingly, in the Kirby comments that fill the first issue’s page of 
“Monolith Mail” which cannot yet feature readers’ letters about the just-pub- 
lished comic, the writer-artist indicates that he has no real intention of ever 
taking the story much further than the original film and novel: 

the New Seed is the conquering hero in this latest Marvel drama. Why? Because he 
has staying power, that’s why. He will always be there in the story’s final moments 
to taunt us with the question we shall never answer. The little shaver is, perhaps, the 
embodiment of our own hopes in a world which daily makes us more than a bit 
uneasy about our future.^ 

Kirby states out loud what will emerge as one major reason why sequels 
to 2001 say little about humanity’s successors— because from a human perspec- 
tive, the nature of superhumanity is a “question we shall never answer.” Fie is 
instead inclined or obliged to present his New Seed as essentially a metaphor 
for something quintessentially human: 

the New Seed is no more than the spirit of our own self-belief, our own confidence 
in the stubborn rationale which has brought us from the caves to condominiums in 
the suburbs)....] The New Seed merely says that we can still do it. We can keep the 
environment and ourselves running into the distant future. We can, someday, knock 
off our hostilities and concentrate together on the great mystery of the stars [19]. 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

If Kirby erroneously believed that readers would embrace a continuation 
of 2001 that never advanced beyond creating one New Seed after another and 
presented them only as enigmatic representatives of human stick-to-it-ivity, 
he would soon learn of their desire for substantive information regarding the 
nature and activities of these superhumans. But for now, Kirby had a plan, and 
he followed it in the next five issues. 

As the novelty in the second issue’s story, a prehistoric woman in an 
unspecified era finds a monolith and, inspired by the encounter, figures out 
that she can disguise herself as a god and thus be worshipped, fed, and sheltered 
by her fellow humans; then, a female astronaut exploring Ganymede survives 
a battle with sinister aliens in flying saucers and is taken by a monolith through 
space to enjoy a swim with old neighbors before becoming Kirby’s second New 
Seed.® In the two-part story in the third and fourth issues,^ a warrior who lived 
200,000 years ago converses with an old man who gets ideas from a monolith; 
taken to his monolith, Marak receives a vision that he must seek a warrior 
queen named Jalessa. Training his men to ride horses and inventing the wheel, 
Marak takes them to her kingdom and meets Jalessa, also being assisted by a 
monolith, and they form a partnership (and implied romantic relationship) to 
further advance humanity. Then, in a space station orbiting Mars, commander 
Herbert Marik orders his crew to abandon the station before it is destroyed by 
meteoroids; remaining there, he finds a monolith which takes him to a meeting 
with Jalessa — presented as a reunion — in an idyllic kingdom before becoming 
the third New Seed. The added element here is that, like the monolith in Clarke’s 
novel which carefully selected the brightest prehumans, Kirby’s monoliths do 
not assist whatever random humans come in contact with them, but rather seek 
out and uplift only especially promising candidates. 

In the two-part story in the fifth and sixth issues,'” Kirby alters his pattern 
by eliminating the prehistoric prelude and simply describes a future man’s 
encounters with monoliths. Harvey Norton loves visiting “Comicsville” where 
he acts out being a superhero with realistic props and live actors, but a monolith 
intrudes upon the scripted action, encouraging him to abandon a society 
obsessed with illusory experiences to become an astronaut who has actual 
adventures in space. Specifically, he soon rescues an alien princess from fellow 
beings seeking to abduct her by fleeing with her to another galaxy; besieged by 
would-be captors, the princess escapes via a teleportation device but Norton is 
trapped in rubble, whereupon a monolith first refashions him into a genuine 
superhero and then transforms him into another New Seed. 

In this story, Kirby may provide interesting commentary on the mentality 
of readers who love comics and suggest that they may devote too much of their 
lives to fantasies — a surprising message in a comic book — but again does noth- 
ing to advance his story, and readers were growing impatient. “I’m hoping #3 
doesn’t end like the first two. 1 suggest having different endings,” wrote one 
reader in the fifth issue’s letter column." More complaints emerged in the sixth 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


issue: “I don’t believe readers are going to get too excited reading a variation 
of the same story every issue.” “Where is this comic going?” “Is there any long- 
range plan in mind for this book?” In response, the unnamed editor could only 
urge readers to be “patient.”'^ 

Finally, instead of concluding with a human’s transformation into a New 
Seed, the seventh issue’s story, “The New Seed,” begins with this event and fol- 
lows the evolved being as he voyages through space. While finding the experi- 
ence pleasurable — he “begins to know the joy of pursuing the comets and racing 
meteors in their fiery flights”— the New Seed devotes his time to examining 
many worlds, including a barren, lifeless planet, a world with prehistoric crea- 
tures, and a world with advanced technology.'^ But he lingers at one “planet of 
smashed cities ... to marvel at the folly which could generate such massive and 
complete destruction” (11). Sadly observing desperate survivors fighting with 
each other to survive on the dying world, he is moved by the senseless murder 
of a man and woman and decides, “Life must be perpetuated. Though I could 
not involve myself in their destiny, I can act when it no longer exists. I can 
claim what remains” (27). Taking the couple’s glowing life-energy, he transports 
it to a hospitable but lifeless planet and leaves it there to begin the evolution 
of life: “A quest is fulfilled ... a mission completed. A billion years will pass 
before lovers may live again to test the whims of fate....” Then he flies away to 
seek the answer to “the why of being” (31). 

Of all the works that purport to continue or revisit 2001: A Space Odyssey, 
“The New Seed” might be called its only genuine sequel, since it alone describes 
what happens to a representative superhuman after his creation. But it is also 
an unfinished sequel: if the original story ended with the superhuman’s birth, 
“The New Seed” limits itself to his early childhood, as he experiences his first 
space journey and takes his first actions to improve the cosmos. We learn that 
Kirby’s New Seed, like the novel’s transformed Bowman, despises violence, and 
though bound by a curious prohibition against meddling in the “destiny” of 
other creatures, he will do what he can to preserve and extend life in the uni- 
verse — another logical deduction to make about a superhuman’s priorities. 
However, by helping to create other species resembling the being he once was, 
the New Seed conspicuously neglects development of his own species— antic- 
ipating Clarke’s coming transformation of the Star Child into an errand boy 
instead of progenitor of a new race — and illustrates one strategy to avoid depic- 
tions of superintelligent beings: envisioning them as being focused on, or even 
obsessed with, the activities of lesser species, which shifts attention away from 
humanity’s successors back to humanity, or species that resemble humanity. 

It is particularly incongruous that all New Seeds go off by themselves, when 
members of a new, superintelligent species would naturally wish to come 
together to collectively progress toward supercivilization. For after encounter- 
ing the monolith, Moon-Watcher did not embark upon a solo quest to learn 
more about his planet and test his new powers; instead, he remained with other 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

members of his tribe and helped them master their environment. Kirby’s new 
beings, if never in contact with each other, will be limited in how they can 
develop and grow. 

Whether further Kirby adventures involving the New Seed would have 
intelligently addressed these issues seems unlikely, but as it turned out, he never 
even made the attempt, as the next issue of 2001: A Space Odyssey lurched in a 
new direction. With readers frustrated by a story going nowhere, sales of the 
comic must have declined — presumably inspiring spirited in-house discussions 
about strategies for reviving the series. Since most successful comics feature 
superheroes, the answer would be obvious: 2001: A Space Odyssey must shift its 
focus to the action-packed adventures of a superhero. Thus, the eighth issue’s 
story describes a secret military effort to develop intelligent, powerful robots; 
however, since they go “berserk” and become destructive,'^ scientists must acti- 
vate the self-destruct mechanism in each model and resolve to abandon the 
project. But one scientist, having grown attached to model X-51, gives him a 
human face, removes his explosive device, and sets him free — whereupon he 
is puzzled to find that everybody in the world wishes to destroy him. When he 
is captured and his face is removed, the monolith briefly appears on the final 
page to free him, displaying an interest in the robot’s survival and develop- 
ment— we are told that the monolith “is destined to serve him” (31) — but the 
story otherwise has nothing to do with preceding issues. In fact, to most com- 
mentators, the lethal malfunctioning of HAL in the original story — the most 
advanced tool humans had crafted — apparently illustrates that tool-building 
is of limited value, requiring another leap forward in humanity’s evolution for 
the species to further progress without tools. Thus, immediately after Bowman 
deactivates HAL — symbolically recognizing that such constructs represents a 
dead end for human development — he fittingly travels to another world to 
become a superhuman. Thus, it is strange to posit that the monoliths would at 
some point lose interest in creating New Seeds and instead mentor a form of 
machine intelligence as a new direction for the advancement of life. Still, a 
robot with super-strength and gravity-defying powers, initially named “Mister 
Machine,” enabled Kirby to fill the issue with scenes of spectacular violence, 
which was presumably the point. 

In the ninth issue’s story, the robot gets his face back and does more fight- 
ing while again briefly communing with the monolith, which says that he should 
“not seek destiny,” but rather allow destiny to “find me.”"’ However, this exercise 
in boosting reader interest had the opposite effect on this reader, and I never 
purchased — and still have not read — the tenth and final issue of 2001: A Space 
Odyssey, which again featured Mister Machine.'" (Online sources indicate that 
the monolith does not even appear in the issue, rendering the story a sequel to 
2001 only in name.) Then, abandoning the pretense that this new story arc had 
anything to do with Kubrick and Clarke’s epic. Marvel ended the 2001 comic 
and launched a new title —Machine Man— to feature the further adventures of 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


the renamed hero, now presented without references to alien monoliths. While 
this comic only lasted for nineteen issues, the character resurfaces at times in 
the Marvel universe, but persons interested in 2001 have no reason to examine 
his further exploits. 


X- X- 

While Kirby labored to extend the saga of 2001, its co-creator Arthur C. 
Clarke was preparing to retire. Newly prominent because of the success of 2001 
and appearances as a commentator during television coverage of the Apollo 
missions, Clarke obtained a then-impressive one-million-dollar advance to 
write three unrelated novels which Clarke announced would be his final works. 
Yet data about Jupiter’s moons from the Voyager space probes inspired an idea 
for a sequel to 2001, originally drafted as a film scenario; but when his agent 
instead suggested writing a novel, Clarke set to work on 2010: Odyssey Two, 
which became a best-seller in 1982. 

More so than most science fiction writers, Clarke had previously dealt with 
the topic of humanity’s future evolution. His first novel. Against the Fall of 
Night (1948, 1953), revised as The City and the Stars (1956), intimated that the 
vanished human race of the far future had advanced to some higher level, leaving 
behind remnants of ordinary humanity in two cities on Earth. But he directly 
described a transition from humanity to superhumanity in Childhood’s End 
(1953), wherein aliens conquer Earth to prepare humans for the next step in 
the evolution of intelligence, merging into a group mind. The only surviving 
representative of the human race does not find his successors to be a pretty 

They might have been savages, engaged in some complex ritual dance. They were 
naked and filthy, with matted hair obscuring their eyes. As far as Jan could tell, they 
were of all ages from five to fifteen, yet they all moved with the same speed, precision, 
and complete indifference to their surroundings. 

Then Jan saw their faces. He swallowed hard, and forced himself not to turn away. 
They were emptier than the faces of the dead, for even a corpse has some record 
carved by time’s chisel upon its features, to speak when the lips themselves are dumb. 
There was no more emotion or feeling here than in the face of a snake or an insect." 

The alien Overlord must remind him that “You are not watching human chil- 
dren” and “They have no more identity than the cells in your own body. But 
linked together, they are something much greater than you” (202, 203). This 
new collective being demonstrates its powers by transforming itself into pure 
energy, destroying Earth, and leaving to pursue its superhuman destiny. 

Evidently, Clarke was disquieted by the logic that led to this vision, 
prompting him to precede the novel with an unusual note— “The opinions 
expressed in this book are not those of the author” ( [4] ) — as if to reassure read- 
ers that he really did not believe that anything like this would happen. This 
might be why, in crafting a sequel to 2001, he would avoid the disturbing ques- 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

tion of how humanity might evolve in the future and take the story in other 

Of course, the original story had involved two races which had advanced 
beyond humanity — the Star Child, and the aliens behind the monoliths— and 
2010: Odyssey Two for the first time describes the latter beings. In their physical 
nature, they have undergone a transformation not unlike that observed in Child- 
hood’s End, albeit in stages: 

The first explorers of Earth had long since come to the limits of flesh and blood; as 
soon as their machines were better than their bodies, it was time to move. First their 
brains, and then their thoughts alone, they transferred into shiny new homes of 
metal and plastic [....] 

But the age of the Machine-entities swiftly passed. In their ceaseless experimenting, 
they had learned to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve 
their thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light. They could become creatures 
of radiation, free at last from the tyranny of matter.’® 

However, it remains unclear whether they have evolved into a group intelli- 
gence; for after experiencing the “presence” of “a vast mentality, an implacable 
will” (176), the transformed Bowman 

realized that more than one entity was controlling and manipulating him. He was 
involved in a hierarchy of intelligences, some close enough to his own primitive 
level to act as interpreters. Or perhaps they were all aspects of a single being. 

Or perhaps the distinction was totally meaningless [198]. 

The other point Clarke stresses about these aliens involves their mission, 
which has been subtly but significantly altered from what one would infer from 
the original story: 

When they looked out across the deeps of space, they had felt awe, and wonder, and 
loneliness. As soon as they possessed the power, they set forth for the stars. In their 
explorations, they encountered life in many forms and watched the workings of evo- 
lution on a thousand worlds. They saw how often the first faint sparks of intelligence 
flickered and died in the cosmic night. 

And because, in all the Galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, 
they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of stars; 
they sowed, and sometimes they reaped. 

And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed [265]. 

While broadly congruent with the behavior observed in the first story, this 
account of the aliens’ motives has two aspects that previously were neither 
explicit nor implicit. First, we learn that the aliens are sometimes displeased 
with the results of interventions and consequently take action to eliminate the 
transformed species; thus, they may become enemies, not benefactors— a notion 
to be amplified in future sequels. Second, the aliens are now exclusively con- 
cerned with transitions from non-intelligence to intelligence; nothing is said 
about initiatives to boost already intelligent beings to higher levels of intelli- 
gence. In this way, Clarke betrays the promise of the film and novel; for in 
changing Bowman into the Star Child, Clarke now asserts, the aliens were not 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


seeking to advance humanity beyond its current level. Instead, they had different 
reasons. Further, since later sequels to 2001 will mirror 2010 in declining to 
portray Bowman as a representative of a new superhuman species, and offer 
no other depictions of such a new species, the saga henceforth will address the 
subject of humanity’s future only indirectly: since the aliens who constructed 
the monoliths are more advanced than humans, any information about their 
nature and behavior functions as a provocative suggestion, or even prediction, 
of what humanity’s nature and behavior might someday become. 

By expediently demoting the Star Child, Clarke had to confront one ques- 
tion: if not to serve as the vanguard of a new species, why did the aliens trans- 
form Bowman into this novel form? The prosaic answer in 2010 is that Bowman 
“was being used as a probe, sampling every aspect of human affairs [...] rather 
like a hunting dog on a leash, allowed to make excursions of his own, yet nev- 
ertheless compelled to obey the overriding wishes of his master” ( 168 ) . In other 
words, instead of bothering to return to assess the results of their labors, the 
aliens made Bowman an ethereal superman so he could examine everything 
and report back to them. Since the aliens are said to be made of pure energy 
with the apparent power to communicate, and even travel, faster than light, 
the reason why they need a surrogate to survey Earth and its environs is not 
clear; but Clarke resolves the issue in later sequels by claiming that Bowman 
has really only been in contact with and controlled by the monolith, functioning 
as an automatic machine, not with its alien makers. 

Clarke also reduces the powers and abilities of the transformed Bowman, 
further diminishing his significance. In the novel, he had seemed an almost 
omnipotent free agent who dislikes nuclear weapons and, with a thought, 
instantly eliminates them. But this Bowman, controlled by aliens, is described 
as a “puppet” (178), “tool” (198), and “pet dog” (189, 271), dispatched to Earth 
simply to observe and report on how humanity evolved since the monolith’s 
intervention, though he indulgently makes side trips to visit his mother and 
an old girlfriend. His reduced powers are limited to the ability to mentally 
throw a switch and prematurely detonate an atomic weapon launched at him. 
Thus, this Bowman is far removed from the infant superman of the original 

After examining humanity on Earth, Bowman travels to Jupiter to discover 
two forms of alien life: balloon-like creatures in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, 
not unlike those in Clarke’s “A Meeting with Medusa” (1971), and various crea- 
tures emerging in the underground seas of the moon Europa, though these tend 
to quickly become extinct due to constantly changing conditions. Concluding 
that Jovians do not have the potential to be intelligent, whereas Europans do, 
the aliens implement a bold plan: to transform Jupiter into a star, destroying 
its indigenous life but providing Europa with a regular source of heat and energy 
to allow its creatures to evolve toward intelligence. A secondary motive is to 
provide humans with amenable new worlds to inhabit, as suggested by the mes- 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

sage sent to humanity after Jupiter ignites: “All These Worlds Are Yours — 
Except Europa. Attempt No Landings There” (277). Perhaps, then, even if 
the aliens no longer wish to further improve the species they uplifted to intel- 
ligence, they are willing to do other things to assist in their further progress— 
such as providing new environments. Still, the lengthy descriptions of lifeforms 
on Europa and Jupiter — which Clarke deemed important enough to repeat, 
almost verbatim, in later sequels to 2001— indicate that the aliens’ main interest 
now is their new project, not the already-improved human race. Indeed, the 
“gift” of the Jovian moons might be regarded more as a bribe, to induce humans 
to stay away from Europa in exchange for other attractive worJds. 

In another way, Clarke undermines one implicit message in the original 
film. Anyone evaluating 2001: A Space Odyssey might conclude that director 
Kubrick did not select particularly talented actors; provided them with dialogue 
that was mostly banal or bureaucratic, and not much of it; and did not urge 
them to deliver lines with any force or conviction. While these judgments apply 
to other performers, they seem especially true regarding William Sylvester, the 
unheralded actor portraying Floyd. However, since one would not make these 
observations about other Kubrick films, one must assume a deliberate intent 
behind this apparent dereliction of directorial duty. By one argument, Kubrick 
sought to show that, in the millennia since Moon-Watcher first used tools, 
humans have gradually grown so dependent upon mechanical tools that they 
have become like machines themselves, incapable of genuine communication 
or emotional responses— as reflected in their superficial conversations and 
robotic demeanors. Bowman’s decision to disable HAL and eliminate this tool’s 
influence, and subsequent transformation from a stiff, spacesuited figure into 
a rounded, superhuman fetus, thus signal an evolutionary move away from 
mechanical lifestyles and back toward true, full-blooded humanity, albeit at a 
new level of intelligence. 

In the novel, Floyd was no better developed than in the film, but Clarke 
was then relatively indifferent toward characterization. Perhaps in response to 
criticisms, however, the later Clarke worked harder to make characters seem 
like real, complex people; so, employing Floyd as the protagonist of 2010, he 
unsurprisingly strived to reshape the previously-nondescript Floyd into a 
nuanced, communicative person who enjoys warm relationships with his second 
wife, young son, and scientific colleagues and responds with strong emotions 
to various events. Yet, if people in the twenty-first century, surrounded by 
machines, remain capable of retaining their humanity like the reinvented Floyd, 
there is seemingly no need for our race to undergo further evolutionary devel- 
opment — which would explain and justify the new indifference of the monolith 
builders to that issue. The same problem is even more evident in the film based 
on 2010. 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


Even if its sequel lacked the scope and gravitas of 2001: A Space Odyssey, 
it still seemed sufficiently appealing to merit a film version — Clarke’s original 
plan — and after Kubrick declined an offer to become involved, the project was 
given to writer-director Peter Hyams, making him the third author to wrestle 
with the problem of how to continue the 2001 saga. Predictably — since Hyams, 
unlike Kubrick, was never noted for daring or originality — his screenplay for 
the film, retitled 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984), closely followed 
Clarke’s novel. However, Hyams added some distinctive elements to the story, 
generally taking it even further away from the promise of the original conclu- 

First, while Kubrick recruited undistinguished actors with limited emo- 
tional ranges, Hyams hired more talented performers. Thus, though Sylvester 
was active and presumably available, he recast the part of Floyd with a more 
renowned and respected actor, Roy Scheider; and two other cast members, John 
Lithgow and Helen Mirren, had been or would be nominated for an acting 
Oscar (like Scheider). Hyams is also visibly anxious to take advantage of these 
performers’ skills to depict fully rounded characters; thus, while omitting some 
events from Clarke’s novel, he retains and emphasizes Floyd’s close relationships 
with his family, including a series of scenes showing Floyd playing with his son 
that have no counterpart in the novel, and Scheider, as is his habit, regularly 
displays strong emotional reactions (unlike Sylvester). As for the other Amer- 
icans voyaging to Jupiter, computer expert Dr. Chandra (Bob Balaban) is given 
an appealing back story, as he tends to form emotional relationships with com- 
puters, motivating him to revive and rehabilitate his former creation and asso- 
ciate, HAL, while engineer Walter Curnow (John Lithgow) is made endearing 
by his amusing reluctance to travel through space from the Russian spacecraft 
Leonov to the abandoned Discovery. 

Further, in contrast to the minimal, superficial dialogue in the original 
film, Hyams’s screenplay offers almost nonstop conversations that sometimes 
become intimately personal. This approach is signaled by the way Hyams’s film 
begins: whereas 2001 opened with a long sequence depicting prehuman primates 
with no dialogue at all, 2010: The Year We Make Contact begins, like Clarke’s 
novel, with a lengthy conversation between two contemporary humans— which 
is not enlivened by the novel setting of a radio telescope and the device of having 
speakers Floyd and Russian Dimitri Moisevitch (Dana Elcar) shout at each 
other from different levels of its staircase until they get close enough for normal 
speech. In this film, unlike 2001, the only barrier to true communication 
between humans is excessive distance. The rest of the film also features con- 
tinuous conversations between the Americans and Russians on the Leonov, so 
much so as to force the revived HAL (again voiced by Douglas Rain) to alter 
his manner of communication: though he spoke in slow, measured tones in 2001, 
recognizing that the laconic Bowman and Poole were not anxious to speak, this 
film’s HAL must talk more quickly to get a word in edgewise amidst Hyams’s 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

chatterboxes. The film thus conveys, even more than Clarke’s sequel, that people 
of the twenty-first century are both highly emotional and effectively communica- 
tive, requiring no evolutionary improvements to recapture their basic humanity. 

A filmmaker without Kubrick and Clarke’s singular agenda would of 
course naturally opt for full-bodied characters who do a lot of talking, the usual 
pattern in popular films, and this is also justifiable given that Clarke’s novel 
moved in this direction as well. But Hyams surprisingly did not take advantage 
of opportunities for other crowd-pleasing developments provided by 2010: 
Odyssey Two. Specifically, though the subtitle The Year We Make Contact 
announces the story will focus on encounters with alien life, the film strangely 
downplays that aspect of the novel. True, the Jupiter mission sends a probe to 
Europa where there are said to be signs of life, and its apparently intentional 
destruction seems the work of the beings behind the monolith; true, the film 
retains (with additions to be discussed) the final message from the aliens that 
could be regarded as humanity’s first contact with an alien intelligence. Still, 
in the film, the variegated creatures of Europa described in the novel are never 
observed, and the balloon-like lifeforms in Jupiter’s atmosphere are entirely 
omitted. A filmmaker, one might think, would seize upon Clarke’s intricate 
descriptions of these beings to enthrall audiences with bizarre images of exotic 
aliens, persuasively rendered with superb special effects — an attraction that the 
original 2001 contemplated but did not provide. Yet Hyams seemingly did not 
want to face the challenge of representing actual aliens; perhaps he was uncom- 
fortable with special effects, since his scenes of spacecrafts, astronauts, and 
Jupiter, in contrast to Kubrick’s briJJiant work, are conspicuously inferior and 
never quite realistic. Kubrick’s film, even today, can trick viewers into imagining 
that they are watching footage of actual spacecraft and space travelers, but audi- 
ences watching 2010 will always know they are watching a film with second- 
rate special effects. 

One might defend Hyams, though, by arguing that he had his own agenda, 
making the absence of aliens and unconvincing special effects appropriate; for 
apparently, Hyams wished to depict the aliens who made the monoliths as still 
mainly focused on human progress, if not human evolution, even as Clarke 
indicated that they were now more interested in other promising races. As 
noted, Hyams retains minimal references to their desire to protect the Europans 
by their destruction of the probe and brief message; Floyd’s closing voiceover 
mentions the anticipated appearance of intelligent Europans— “Someday, the 
children of the new sun will meet the children of the old. 1 think they will be 
our friends”; and the film’s final image, a monolith standing in shallow water 
on Europa’s surface, suggests that aliens will soon advance the Europans just as 
they once advanced Earth’s prehumans. Yet Hyams mostly keeps his attention, 
and his aliens’ attention, squarely on humanity; indeed, his major revision of 
Clarke’s story emphasizes that the monolith builders make Jupiter a star pri- 
marily to assist a human race seemingly bent upon its own destruction. 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


That is, while Clarke’s 2010, reflecting the political climate of the early 
1980s, indicates only that American-Soviet relations in the twenty- first century 
remain tense, generating minor tensions during negotiations for a joint Soviet- 
American expedition to investigate the Discovery, Hyams adds a genuine crisis: 
as the Leonov approaches Jupiter, America and Russia become enmeshed in a 
military dispute over Honduras, leading to provocative incidents, casualties, a 
break in diplomatic relations, and an order that Americans on the mission must 
leave the Leonov, which is Soviet territory, go to the abandoned Discovery, and 
have no further contact with former crewmates. Matters have grown so grim 
that characters wonder if Earth will still be there when they return, anticipating 
a devastating nuclear war. Fortunately, humanity’s alien mentors have seemingly 
been monitoring the situation, and by means of forceful intervention they seek 
to resolve the dispute — apparently reasoning that transforming Jupiter into a 
star, and making its moons suitable for human habitation, will provide humans 
with new worlds to inhabit and eliminate any reason for conflicts over territories 
on Earth. That this, not developing intelligent life on Europa, is their major 
motive is made explicit in the seven new words that Hyams adds to his other- 
wise-slight alteration of Clarke’s original message: 

All These Worlds 
Are Yours Except 

Attempt No Landing There 
Use Them Together 
Use Them In Peace 

Immediately thereafter, chastised and humbled by this extraordinary ges- 
ture and advice, leaders of the two nations, Floyd reports, “perhaps [...] learned 
something because they finally recalled their ships and their planes,” ending 
the crisis. 

The story’s original vision of a threatened humanity requiring further evo- 
lution is now reinterpreted in a trivial manner. For Hyams, the problems facing 
humans today are not ingrained issues like overreliance on tools, inability to 
feel genuine emotions, or absence of meaningful communication; rather, people 
are tense because they are crammed together on Earth, and if given some more 
places to live, like newly hospitable Jovian moons, they will be all right. And, 
if the aliens’ major concern is to ensure that the humanity they once crafted 
survives its latest catastrophe, it makes sense for Hyams’s film to omit depictions 
of aliens and render space in a slipshod manner — because his focus, basically, 
is almost entirely on Earth. 

If this statement seems extreme, consider another significant difference 
between the original film and Hyams’s sequel: except for the prologue involving 
human ancestors in Africa, not a single moment of 2001: A Space Odyssey takes 
place on Earth: the modern story begins with Floyd in space, en route to the 
space station and later the Moon, shifts to the Discovery already voyaging to 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

Jupiter, and concludes with the Star Child hovering above the planet. Our only 
glimpses of future Earth come in brief videophone or television transmissions. 
Since the film’s protagonists spend all their time away from their home planet, 
the implicit message is that in the twenty-first century, humanity’s natural 
home is no longer Earth, but rather space; and an often-overlooked aspect of 
Bowman’s transformation, as noted, is that as the Star Child, he can survive in 
space without a spacesuit, making him well suited for perpetual life in space. 
In contrast, 2010 begins with an extended depiction of Eloyd’s pleasant existence 
on Earth in 2010, including his attractive home life, and concludes with a series 
of images of familiar Earth landmarks and a scene of Floyd and his family on 
a beach before that final glimpse of Europa. Here, the implicit message is that 
humanity’s natural home, in the past and future, remains planet Earth. 

Overall, Hyams weakens Clarke’s story with a trite overlay — a simplistic 
call for world peace as the once-enigmatic aliens’ chief motive — and the con- 
servative argument that humanity need not evolve or abandon its home. How- 
ever, as if to compensate for his film’s general banality, the writer-director does 
offer some concluding comments from Floyd, obviously crafted with great care, 
that belatedly provide a few interesting ideas and represent Hyams’s only note- 
worthy contribution to the 2001 saga. 

Speaking to his son while beginning his voyage home, Floyd first contem- 
plates the amazing event he has witnessed and speculates that “Maybe this is 
what happened on Earth millions of years ago.” While adding that “Maybe it’s 
something completely different,” Eloyd basically theorizes that something 
resembling the transformation of Jupiter occurred in Earth’s past. One might 
argue that FJoyd is simply making an incorrect guess about the aliens’ earlier 
actions, since their only observed intervention in Earth’s prehistory involved 
boosting our intelligence, not altering our environment. However, nothing in 
the original saga contradicts Eloyd’s hypothesis. Perhaps, the appearance of the 
monolith four million years ago was not their first good deed on our behalf; 
perhaps they also visited Earth earlier and carefully shaped the Solar System to 
ensure that it would include a suitable star with a planet perfectly situated and 
equipped first for the development of life, and later for intelligent life. 

Floyd’s theory is defensible because it is based upon an analogy between 
what he witnessed in 2010— cosmic engineering on a vast scale — and what 
aliens might have done in Earth’s distant past. If he is right, the pattern of alien 
intervention into the evolution of other beings would not involve the two-step 
pattern presented in 2001— first, finding suitable species and raising them to 
intelligence, then elevating them to a higher level — but a different two-step 
pattern: first, altering a planet’s physical environment to increase the chances 
that promising beings might emerge there (their unknown actions long ago in 
the Solar System, transforming Jupiter into a star to make Europa amenable to 
evolution); and second, altering the resulting beings’ mental makeup to make 
them intelligent (the monolith’s education of Moon- Watcher and his tribe on 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


Earth, placement of the monolith on Europa to someday do the same for the 
Europans), with ongoing monitoring to ensure that the uplifted species remains 
alive during the sorts of crises that typically afflict developing civilizations. If 
nothing else, this idea represents a fuller and more cohesive way to reinterpret 
the aliens’ entire agenda, and this conceit might have led Clarke, or someone else, 
to craft not a sequel to 2001 but a prequel, describing spectacular stellar or plan- 
etary changes made by ancient aliens to lay the groundwork for the development 
of the primates they would return to educate in the original story’s prologue. 

In keeping with the notions that aliens may have been responsible for craft- 
ing our environment, and may maintain interest in our progress, Eloyd con- 
cludes with a novel description of the monolith builders: “You can tell your 
children of the day when everyone looked up and realized that we were only 
tenants of this world. We have been given a new lease — and a warning —from 
the landlord.” In Clarke’s vision, the aliens were busy travelers who planted 
monoliths in various locations and then hurried on, never lingering to assess 
the fruits of their labors or check on the progress of uplifted species. Justifying 
their singular intervention into a specific crisis, Hyams instead portrays the 
aliens as the “landlords” of Earth (and presumably other inhabited worlds), 
who like terrestrial landlords keep a constant eye on their property and take 
immediate action if there is some threat. Floyd’s “new lease” might mean that 
the aliens have prevented the Earth from being destroyed, renewing humanity’s 
occupation of that planet, or he might be thinking about the new worlds now 
open to human occupation. His comment about “a warning” is less clear. Per- 
haps, Floyd feels humans are being warned that, if they misbehave again, their 
alien overseers might not be around, or might be disinclined, to save them 
again; or perhaps, in keeping with Clarke’s comment that the aliens sometimes 
“had to weed,” Floyd fears that if humans keep behaving badly, their “landlord” 
might evict them — that is, exterminate them — though nothing else in the film 
supports the sense, which emerges in Clarke’s later sequels to 2001, that the 
aliens might be more sinister than benign. 

Finally, Floyd’s speech includes a provocative comment about the mono- 
lith: “I still don’t know really what the monolith is. I think it’s many things— 
an embassy for intelligence beyond ours, a shape of some kind for something 
that has no shape.” Here, Floyd — and Hyams— are mixing metaphors: a land- 
lord has power over a tenant, but a nation with an embassy in another country 
merely endeavors to maintain communication with a presumed equal; but this 
alternate image does comfortingly suggest that, before they do anything rash, 
the aliens may at least consult with humanity. And calling the monolith “a 
shape [...] for something that has no shape” may represent a watered-down 
version of the fleeting observation in 2010: Odyssey Two that the monolith was 
multi-dimensional (“How obvious, now, was that mathematical ratio of its 
sides, the quadratic sequence 1:4:9! And how naive to have imagined that the 
series ended there, in only three dimensions!” [149]). 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

Overall, however, a few good ideas in its coda do not make 2010 a good 
movie, and though (according to the Internet Movie Database) the film earned 
more money than it cost to make, its overall box office of around $40 million 
dollars — much less than 2001, even without considering inflation — were surely 
disappointing, which explains why Clarke’s other two sequels to 2001 were 
never adapted as films. 

X- ^ 

Clarke wanted to wait for new data about Jupiter from the Galileo space 
probe, due to arrive around 1990, before continuing the 2001 saga, but when 
the 1986 Challenger disaster postponed its launch, he decided to proceed without 
new information; cynics might note that completing and publishing 2061: 
Odyssey Three earlier than planned, in 1987, when memories of the previous 
book and film adaptation were fresh, made better business sense as well. Cer- 
tainly, it is the book in the series that contributes the least to the story, height- 
ening suspicions that Clarke primarily wrote it for the money. 

To convey the novel’s emptiness, one notes that for much of its length, 
Clarke seemingly forgets about monoliths, the transformed Bowman, or alien 
efforts to oversee the development of intelligence; the topics do not come up 
as Clarke crafts another sedate adventure involving Floyd. Although an elderly 
man in 2061, he accepts an invitation from a billionaire to accompany other 
celebrities on a voyage in his private spaceship, the Universe, to rendezvous 
with Halley’s Comet, again approaching Earth. In the meantime, Clarke 
employs a recent theory that gas giants like Jupiter might have cores of solid 
diamond to generate some melodramatic hijinks: having discovered that a frag- 
ment from Jupiter’s core, which shattered when the planet became a star, landed 
on Europa to provide the moon with a mountain of diamonds, dubbed Mount 
Zeus, a diamond company plants an agent on a spaceship traveling near Jupiter 
who hijacks the ship and forces it to land on Europa, presumably to gain access 
to the moon’s enormous deposits of diamonds. Although the agent is killed, 
thwarting the scheme, the disabled spaceship is stranded on Europa with a crew 
in need of rescue, which humanity seeks to effect as quickly as possible, since 
they worry about how the aliens might react to this conspicuous violation of 
their orders. As the only suitable spacecraft in the vicinity, the Universe is asked 
to rush to Europa and retrieve the crew before anything happens. 

Amidst these goings-on, only Eloyd recalls that there was once a man 
named Bowman who had been transformed into an ethereal representative of 
the aliens, and after discussing matters, people on the Universe agree that it 
might be a good idea for Eloyd to send him a radio message, explaining the sit- 
uation. The only immediate response is that Eloyd dreams about the monolith, 
and he is never contacted by Bowman. But Clarke, in the next-to-last chapter 
of his novel, finally provides readers with a glimpse of what Bowman has been 
up to since the end of 2010. 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


First, expanding upon what was conveyed at the end of that novel, we learn 
that Bowman was allowed to bring the deceased HAL into his company as a sec- 
ond, disembodied servant for the monolith. Then, to address the crisis, they decide 
that since Floyd’s grandson is a member of the crew on Europa, they should create 
a duplicate of Floyd to attract his grandson’s attention and give him an important 
message: that his crew must move away from a dangerous position so the Universe 
can safely retrieve them. And while explaining matters to their new friend. Bow- 
man and HAL first provide some more information about the monolith: 

It is a tool, serving many purposes. Its prime function appears to be as a catalyst of 
intelligence!....] In Africa, four million years ago, it gave a tribe of starving apes the 
impetus that led to the human species. Now it has repeated the experiment here — 
but at an appalling cost. 

When Jupiter was converted into a sun so that this world could realize its potential, 
another biosphere was destroyed.^" 

After the description of Jovian lifeforms is repeated, they express the grave 
concern they are developing: 

Something has gone wrong[....\ 

When Mount Zeus fell, it could have destroyed this whole world. Its impact was 
unplanned — indeed, unplannable [....] It devastated vast areas of the Europan seabed, 
wiping out whole species— including some for which we had high hopes. The mono- 
lith itself was overturned. It may even have been damaged, its programs corrupted. 
Certainly they failed to cover all contingencies [271]. 

The aliens that created the monolith, and their handiwork, are being 
diminished in stature, since it now transpires that their policy is to place mono- 
liths in various areas where intelligence might develop and then go away, pro- 
viding no further monitoring. The monoliths themselves, previously depicted 
as impervious and flawless, are now susceptible to damage and consequently 
are capable of making mistakes. Even before the problem of the chunk of dia- 
mond colliding with Europa, the monolith’s decision to exterminate the Jovians 
to nurture the Europans struck Bowman and HAL as questionable, even omi- 
nous, engendering fears about humanity’s eventual fate. Believing the monolith 
is no longer trustworthy. Bowman and HAL feel that it has become their “task 
to help [the Europans] find their true potential — perhaps here, perhaps else- 
where” (271). And they must work quickly: 

“How much time do we have?” 

“Little enough; barely a thousand years. And we must remember the Jovians” [272] . 

Their worry, obviously, is that a flawed, malfunctioning monolith might decide 
to destroy humanity in the same way that it once destroyed the Jovians. In other 
words, Clarke builds upon the ominous hint in 2010- “sometimes, dispassion- 
ately, they had to weed” — to suggest that the monolith, once humanity’s friend, 
might become its enemy. When Clarke returns to the 2001 saga, that is exactly 
what happens. 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

Clarke took a decade before publishing 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997), 
perhaps because the now-elderly Clarke worked more slowly, but he may have 
had trouble deciding upon its protagonist, since Bowman had become an ethe- 
real servant and Floyd had grown too elderly. Clarke’s ingenious solution was 
to revive the other hero of 2001, Poole, last seen as a corpse drifting through 
interplanetary space near Jupiter. But one could reasonably presume that by 
3001, if his frozen body was retrieved, the advanced medicine of that time could 
restore him to life; and that is how 3001 begins. 

As might be expected, Clarke spends a substantial amount of time 
acquainting Poole with the technological wonders of another new millennium 
and saying little about Bowman and HAL, the monoliths, and the aliens who 
created them. Still, an initial chapter essentially repeats the description of the 
aliens in 2010, so readers know that Clarke has not forgotten them. (Surely, one 
factor contributing to the sense that the later two sequels are running in place 
is Clarke’s unfortunate habit of copying lengthy passages from 2010 to fill their 
pages.) Still, there are a few revisions: the monolith builders are now named 
the Firstborn, confirming that they were the first intelligent species to emerge 
in the universe, and there are new concluding paragraphs to set the stage for 
the eventual appearance of Poole’s old comrades: 

[The aliens’] marvelous instruments still continued to function, watching over the 
experiments started so many years ago. 

But no longer were they always obedient to the mandates of their creators; like all 
material things, they were not immune to the corruptions of Time and its patient, 
unsleeping servant. Entropy. 

And sometimes, they discovered and sought goals of their own.^‘ 

Thus, when Poole finally encounters Bowman and HAL — now combined into 
one being called Halman — readers are prepared for the ominous news that they 
provide, as reported by Poole: 

The Monolith is a fantastically powerful machine — look what it did to Jupiter! — 
but it’s no more than that. It’s running on automatic; it has no consciousness)....] 
Worse still, some of its systems may have started to fail; Dave even suggests that, in 
a fundamental way, it’s become stupid! Perhaps it’s been left on its own for too 
long — it’s time for a service check. 

And [Halman] believes that the Monolith has made at least one misjudgment. 
Perhaps that’s not the right word — it may have been deliberate, carefully considered 
... (181) 

Further, because Halman fears that the Monolith may be preparing to 
harm humanity, he asks Poole to get scientists on Earth to figure out how to 
disable the Monolith. Since it is now characterized as a computer, they devise 
an appropriate solution: opening an ancient vault of stored computer viruses, 
scientists extract a suitable weapon, Halman contrives to inject it into the 
Monolith, and the “fantastically powerful machine” that loomed over humans 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


since ancient times is finally turned off, perhaps destroying Halman — since it 
was in some fashion powered by or contained within the Monolith — but ensur- 
ing that humanity will survive for at least another thousand years— the time 
when Poole and his colleagues anticipate that the monolith makers will learn 
their machine is no longer working and perhaps respond in a threatening man- 

Overall, in a fashion almost unimaginable, the astonishingly advanced 
aliens once depicted as the pinnacle of evolution have been effectively reduced 
to the level of mere humanity. Literally, they are just like us. Like humans, they 
constructed an impressively advanced computer (HAL, the Monolith); like 
humans, they failed to anticipate that this computer would malfunction and 
become a menace to the beings it was designed to assist; and like humans, they 
must have Bowman venture into the bowels of the machinery, shut down the 
faulty piece of equipment, and restore order to the world. 

Furthermore, consider what has happened to the film’s original theme. 
The story seemingly argued that, after depending upon tools for millions of 
years to advance from bones to spaceships, humanity has reached the point 
where tool-making has taken them as far as it can, requiring the race to evolve 
beyond tools. But it transpires in 3001 that even these advanced aliens have not 
risen above the need to build and use tools, and have not risen above the prob- 
lem of tools that can be misused, or malfunction, and become inimical to their 
interests. Evolution beyond the merely human is not only a topic being avoided; 
the series now argues that such evolution is virtually impossible. No matter 
how far humans might travel or what technologies they might develop, 3001 
indicates they will always be, like their alien manipulators, fallible creatures 
depending upon the unreliable tools they will always have to construct. 

However, Clarke does not merely indict the aliens as builders of bad 
machines; he suggests that they themselves might be ready to destroy humanity. 
For there is a reason why Halman fears the monolith will become a threat: in 
the twenty-first century, as depicted in 2010, Bowman surveyed his planet and 
found any number of conflicts and problems that might lead advanced aliens 
to conclude that the species was a failed experiment in need of “weeding.” Hal- 
man knows that it took about 450 years for his report to reach the entity that 
is the monolith’s supervisor, so it would take the same amount of time for that 
supervisor to relay new instructions to the monolith, based upon that report; 
and the monolith appears to be receiving a flurry of new instructions that Hal- 
man fears might involve eliminating humanity. The problem is not simply that 
a flawed alien computer might erroneously decide to eradicate our species; the 
aliens who constructed it might coldly mandate precisely that action. Thus, 
while the Monolith may be “stupid,” the aliens may be downright evil. 

Still, in a brief and enigmatic final chapter, Clarke appears to back away 
from this unflattering portrait of hyper-evolved aliens, since such a being is 
presumably the speaker who intones these words: “Their little universe is very 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

young, and its god is still a child. But it is too soon to judge them; when We 
return in the last days, We shall consider what should be saved” (237). This 
statement seemingly comes from a race of aliens who are as far beyond the 
aliens behind the monoliths as those aliens are beyond humanity: “they” is 
humanity, “its god” is the alien race that has manipulated them, and while some 
things that advanced race is doing are questionable, its actions are excused 
because, by the standards of this even more advanced being, it is still “a child.” 
Perhaps, then, there is a model for human evolution which inarguably repre- 
sents a vast improvement upon humanity, though this model is now not the 
aliens who drove events in the 2001 saga, but rather another race that is far 
beyond them in powers and wisdom. 

3001 offers another idea about human advancement, though it is left unde- 
veloped, in Halman, a blend of human intelligence and machine intelligence. 
It has been shown, by humans in the twenty-first century and the potentially 
genocidal monolith builders, that sentient creatures with organic origins are 
unreliable, and HAL and the increasingly suspect monolith demonstrate that 
sentient creatures of mechanical origins are similarly unreliable. Perhaps, by 
merging an organic being and mechanical being, a truly superior creature would 
result — the “cyborg” often celebrated by proponents of the postmodern. Yet 
just as Bowman himself was never presented as a superhuman successor to 
humanity in the first two sequels to 2001, Halman in 3001 is also not elevated 
to this status; in fact, he seems pretty much like Bowman, suggesting that inte- 
grating HAL into his already unemotional personality did not change him very 
much. And, given that the novel’s central conceit is the monolith reconsidered 
as a fallible computer, one cannot simultaneously maintain that merging a com- 
puter with an organic being might improve the species. 

What about the Europans, the promising beings that the monolith builders 
hoped to elevate to intelligence by transforming Jupiter into a star? Might they 
be developing into beings with even greater potential than humans to achieve 
super-humanity? Clarke also deflates this possibility, since Poole reports, 
“Though a thousand years is a very short time, one would have expected some 
progress, but according to Dave they’re exactly the same now as when they left 
the sea” (186). One cannot be optimistic, then, that this race will achieve intel- 
ligence, let alone a stature transcending human intelligence. 

Thus, despite the promise of the fetus-like Star Child in the first story, 
Clarke has brought his saga about a prophesied leap beyond mere humanity to 
a dead end. The transformed Bowman is not the vanguard of a new superhuman 
species, but only a sort of computer simulation assigned to perform chores for 
aliens. Though the once-unhinged HAL was rehabilitated, there is no hint that 
machine intelligence represents a path to the superhuman; indeed, with the 
monolith redefined as a computer that, like HAL, has malfunctioned, that pos- 
sibility seems precluded. The aliens who built the monoliths are now perceived 
as beings capable of grievous errors and malicious actions that might destroy, 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


instead of nurturing, other intelligent life, diminishing their luster as possible 
models of humanity’s future. The Europans’ lack of progress indicates that 
other species are equally unlikely to achieve a state of superhuman perfection. 
There is a final hint of a truly transcendent, unimaginably advanced species, 
but upon close examination they, too, may retain the flaws observed in other 
species once thought to have evolved beyond flaws. 

Arguably, this all might be construed as an unexciting, but potentially 
accurate argument about humanity’s future: that we have already gotten to be 
as good as we will ever be, so we can expect to remain pretty much the same 
for as long as we might endure; other intelligent beings will similarly cease 
developing when they attain a stature similar to present-day humanity. This 
vision of eternal stagnation may be just as probable as any other prediction one 
might make about humanity’s future. Yet everything that we know about our- 
selves undermines this theory: history demonstrates that humanity has kept 
evolving biologically, intellectually, and culturally for millions of years, so it is 
extraordinarily unlikely that we now happen to live at the precise moment when 
all that progress is destined to come to a screeching halt. Surely, further 
improvements must be on the horizon, and arguing otherwise seems not a rea- 
soned conclusion, but rather a desperate expedient in the face of a fundamental 
inability to envision precisely what forms that further improvement might take. 
Thus, in sequels to 2001, Clarke felt compelled to take readers further and fur- 
ther away from the subject of future human evolution, though that was man- 
ifestly the central point of the original story. 

Still, expressed concerns in 3001 about what might occur in 4001, and its 
provocative coda suggesting the existence of beings beyond any yet encountered, 
did provide an opening for another sequel, which probably again would have 
failed to add much of interest to this deteriorating saga. But instead of taking 
that step, Clarke kept the implicit promise in his subtitle — The Final Odyssey— 
and never returned to the world that he and Kubrick crafted decades ago, and 
never allowed other writers to do so. However, while not sanctioning another 
sequel, he did authorize and involve himself in what might be described as a 
sidebar to the story of 2001 offering another perspective on the possible char- 
acteristics of a superhuman race. 


Clarke again announced, after 3001, that he would write no more novels 
(though he again abandoned this vow and began another one. The Last Theorem 
[2008], eventually completed by Frederik Pohl). Yet other novels had been 
appearing that prominently displayed Clarke’s name as their principal author, 
followed by the names of so-called “co-authors”: Gentry Lee, Mike McQuay, 
Michael Kube-McDowell, and Stephen Baxter. Clarke made little effort to con- 
ceal that, in fact, these men were actually writing these novels, while Clarke 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

generally limited himself to contributing initial ideas, regular feedback, and an 
afterword. Since one author, Lee, had produced a three-volume continuation 
of Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama— another saga involving an artifact built by 
unseen, enigmatic aliens— it was perhaps inevitable that another of Clarke’s 
partners might raise the possibility of continuing the 2001 series in some fashion; 
and Clarke was amenable to a new story along the same lines that was not 
directly connected to 2001. 

Thus, to introduce Time’s Eye (2004), subtitled Book One of A Time 
Odyssey, a brief “Authors’ Note” attributed to Clarke and the book’s purported 
co-author and probable sole author, Baxter, stated that “This book, and the 
series that it opens, neither follows nor precedes the books of the earlier Odyssey, 
but is at right angles to them; not a sequel or prequel, but an ‘orthoquel,’ taking 
similar premises in a different direction. Specifically, Clarke and Baxter would 
develop this trilogy by again positing the existence of mysterious advanced 
aliens, represented by stark geometric artifacts, who would undertake to meddle 
in humanity’s affairs. The difference this time, as Baxter explained in the inter- 
view, “A Conversation with Stephen Baxter and Sir Arthur C. Clarke,” included 
as an afterword to Time’s Eye, is that they would “assume [e] an intervention 
that’s hostile from the very beginning” ([365]). If not a true sequel to 2001, 
then, this trilogy would in a way complete the narrative arc of the series- 
moving from a first volume and film depicting an entirely benign race of manip- 
ulators, to later volumes depicting a race that increasingly seems flawed or 
even potentially inimical, to a final narrative depicting a race that is entirely 

Crafting this story, however, did pose two problems for Clarke and Baxter, 
who were more scientifically astute, and more principled, than many lesser 
authors and filmmakers who had offered colorful but contrived tales of sinister 
aliens with awesome scientific capabilities who attempt to conquer Earth but 
are defeated by plucky humans. Naturally wishing to assume that the future 
evolution of intelligent life would involve advances in both technology and 
morality, they could not posit purely malevolent aliens as the end product of 
extended evolution, and thus as models for what humanity might become, but 
instead would need to provide some logical reason why advanced aliens might 
seek humanity’s downfall. And the justification developed by the writer who 
introduced this theme in The War of the Worlds (1898), H. G. Wells— that a 
once-admirable race might attack Earth because their own depleted planet made 
them covet our lush environment and rich resources— no longer made sense 
in an era when scientists knew the universe was filled with planets, and could 
predict the development of technologies such as terraforming which could 
transform barren worlds into paradises, eliminating any reason for an advanced 
species to conquer inhabited planets. Second, if authors envision truly superior 
aliens, and not the easily-defeated bumblers of popular culture, they would 
have to accept that such beings could eradicate a lesser race like humanity 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


quickly and easily, making it difficult to sustain an extended narrative about 
their sure-to-be-successful efforts. 

To address the first issue, Clarke and Baxter begin by dropping hints in 
Time’s Eye, while describing their otherwise-incomprehensible handiwork on 
the new world of Mir (to be discussed), that their aliens are far from kindly: 
one character asks, “Do any of us actually believe there can be benevolence 
behind this meddling?” (Ill), another speaks of their “cruelty” and “Arrogance” 
(244), while a third thinks that their artifact is “hovering above them both bale- 
fully” (270-271) and opines that they are “not gods”— “Because they have no 
compassion” (267). But only near the end of the book do the authors spell out 
exactly what the aliens— the first intelligent race that emerged in the universe — 
are up to: 

as they looked ahead, they saw only a slow darkening, as each generation of stars 
was built with increasing difficulty from the debris of the last. There would come a 
day when there wasn’t enough fuel in the Galaxy to manufacture a single new star, 
and the last light flickered and died)....] 

They returned to their abandoned machines of war. The ancient machines were 
directed to a new objective: to the elimination of waste — to cauterization, if neces- 
sary. The makers saw now that if even a single thread of awareness was to be passed 
to the furthest future, there must be no unnecessary disturbance, no wasted energy, 
no ripples in the stream of time]....] 

It was all for the best of intentions. The first ones, born into an empty universe, 
cherished life above all else. But to preserve life, life must sometimes be destroyed 

To avoid depleting the universe’s finite supply of energy as long as possible, 
and thus keep themselves alive as long as possible, these aliens, called “the First- 
born” as in 3001, were wiping out all intelligent species in their galaxy, since 
they used up energy at an alarming rate. 

To explain why they feel driven to survive into the “furthest future,” the 
third book in the trilogy. Firstborn: A Time Odyssey: 3 (2008), presents a theory 
developed by the extinct Martian race : 

The Martians argued among themselves as to why the Firstborn were so intent upon 
reaching the Last Days. 

Perhaps it derived from their origin. Perhaps in their coming of awareness in the 
First Days they had encountered— another. One as far beyond their cosmos as they 
were beyond the toy universes in which they stored their time-sliced worlds. One 
who would return in the Last Days, to consider what should be saved.^^ 

This concept of an ultimate fiber-race that would eventually materialize to pass 
judgment on the universe, of course, is borrowed from the the brief final chapter 
of 3001. 

Despite this elaborate exercise in justification and rationalization, one can- 
not dispute that, by any imaginable ethical code, this behavior is immoral. The 
Firstborn are equivalent to a man who escapes a sinking ship, boards its single 
lifeboat, and murders all passengers who attempt to join him, arguing that this 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

represents the best way to prolong the lifeboat’s supplies and ensure that there 
will be at least one survivor. That is, simply because they happened to be the 
first intelligent species to evolve, what gives these aliens the right to conclude 
that they are the only intelligent species that merits survival? Beings that gen- 
uinely “cherished life above all else,” noticing that another energy- consuming 
intelligent race has emerged, might approach the newcomers, school them on 
the importance of conserving the universe’s energy, and collectively commit 
suicide, allowing that species to carry on waiting for the “Final Days” until 
they, too, decide to pass the torch to a new species and eliminate themselves. 
Or if, as the Martians speculate, “the universe could only bear one world as 
populous and energy-hungry as their own, one world in each of the universe’s 
hundred billion empty galaxies, if the Last Days were to be reached” (292-293), 
then upon the arrival of each new intelligent species, the Firstborn could destroy 
part of their population and replace it with representatives of the newcomers, 
so when the universe ends, the super-advanced beings could be greeted by a 
world collectively populated by all of one galaxy’s intelligent species, not just 
a world of one surviving species. 

It is also incongruous that the Firstborn apparently never attempt to craft 
an alternative strategy to meet their goals, such as endeavoring to replenish the 
universe’s supply of energy, tapping some source of energy from outside the 
universe, and/or developing innovative techniques to enable intelligent species 
to persist with such an amazingly minimal expenditure of energy as to allow 
for the survival of several races instead of one. Readers might have more sym- 
pathy for the Firstborn had they been told, for example, that they had first 
devoted countless millennia to a thoroughgoing search for other solutions 
before finally and reluctantly implementing their policy of genocide. But there 
are no statements of this kind in the trilogy. 

From considering how Clarke and Baxter addressed their second prob- 
lem — providing the Firstborn with a methodology for murder to fill an entire 
trilogy — it becomes apparent that these aliens are not only the most evil ones 
yet encountered in a continuation of 2001, but also the stupidest. (This also 
might explain why they quickly began slaughtering other races without pon- 
dering other possible courses of action.) 

As eventually explained in Firstborn, the aliens follow a three-step process 
when they learn about the emergence of another intelligent race, each step suc- 
cessively illustrated in the books of the trilogy. First, they make copies of bits 
and pieces of the targeted world’s past history and assemble them to form a 
new, amalgamated planet within an especially-created pocket universe that 
endures for a few centuries before being destroyed. This is the story of Time’s 
Eye: in 2037, United Nations soldiers in Afghanistan suddenly find themselves 
in a world that includes, among others, australopithecines, the armies of Alexan- 
der the Great and Genghis Khan, and a troop of nineteenth-century British 
soldiers accompanied by young Rudyard Kipling; and their conflicts, partner- 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


ships, conspiracies, and romances constitute the volume’s plot. The natural ques- 
tion is why the aliens would bother to do this. First, it seems an unnecessary 
expenditure of energy by beings purportedly obsessed with avoiding precisely 
that, though we are told in Firstborn that, according to a Martian scientist, “the 
energy sums would cancel out” when the universe expired (293). If this is granted, 
then the aliens are simply employing an energy-neutral method to observe the 
history of the species they will soon exterminate. This is intimated throughout 
Time’s Eye because the ubiquitous artifacts representing these aliens— not mono- 
liths, but perfect, floating spheres— are called “Eyes” and repeatedly described as 
watching the novel’s characters (19, 90, 191, 227, 249-250, 268, 276, 287, and 297). 
A character in the second novel, Sunstorm: A Time Odyssey: 2 (2007), describes 
this observation as something the Firstborn regard as a painful duty: 

“One thing I’m sure about, though. They watch.” 


“I think that’s what Mir was all about. Mir was a montage of all our history, right 
up to the moment of this— our possible destruction. Mir wasn’t about us but about 
the Firstborn. They forced themselves to look at what they were destroying, to face 
what they had done.”^'‘ 

But this explanation makes no sense; for if the Firstborn could travel into 
the past to select and replicate slices of human history, they could send Eyes 
back into past eras to observe our history as it happened, instead of settling for 
an artificial, unrepresentative summary of our history derived from juxtaposing 
random representatives of various periods and cultures. The aliens’ actions do 
not serve their own interests, but rather serve the interests of an author, Baxter, 
with a known fascination with alternate history. So, if you ever wondered who 
would have triumphed if Alexander the Great had battled Genghis Khan, with 
each commander assisted by some modern technology, you can read Time’s Eye 
and find out. And while Firstborn’s return to Mir does not emulate Garrett P. 
Serviss to describe Edison’s Conquest of Mars (1898), there is a vignette about 
Edison’s Contact with Mars. As I argue elsewhere, these exercises in alternate 
history represent little more than authorial game-playing, not the thoughtful 
extrapolation of future possibilities that Clarke, and other great science fiction 
writers, are noted for.^^ 

In any event, having temporarily preserved and observed some of Earth’s 
history, the aliens proceed to their usual second step — destroying the intelligent 
species— by detaching a huge planet from another solar system and crashing it 
into our sun, provoking interior energy fluctuations that eventually cause a 
sudden outpouring of stellar energy — the “sunstorm” of the second volume — 
that will devastate Earth and kill its advanced life forms. Again, this might seem 
a waste of energy, but Clarke and Baxter anticipate and try to counter that argu- 
ment: as a scientist explains, “they act with —economy. If a star system is giving 
them cause for concern, they first hit it with a sunstorm. Crude, a blanket blow- 
torching, but a cheap way of sterilizing an entire system” {Firstborn 271). 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

However, despite their enormous powers, the Firstborn manage to botch 
the job of slaughtering humanity due to two astounding blunders. First, it tran- 
spires that the Firstborn’s decision to destroy humanity was not unanimous— 
it was reached “despite some dissension” {Sunstorm 184) — and dissenters have 
been secretly working to prevent the genocide. In Time’s Eye, they employ one 
of Mir’s Eyes to transport one resident, a twenty-first-century soldier named 
Bisesa Dutt, back to Earth, where in Sunstorm she provides authorities with the 
vital clue that the coming sunstorm is not a natural event, but was rather caused 
by homicidal aliens. Great Britain’s Astronomer Royal figures out the situation: 
after asking Bisesa, “Why would they warn any of us— and why yon?” she 
immediately answers her own question: 

Because there are factions among these Firstborn. Because they are no more united 
and uniform of view than humanity is— why should a more advanced civilization 
be homogeneous? And because there are some of them, at least, who believe that 
what is being done is wrong. A faction of them, working through Bisesa, are trying 
to warn us [Sunstorm 152-153]. 

Yet this represents a typical error made by scoundrels in popular adventures: 
allowing a traitorous underling to secretly work against them without being 
aware of the betrayal. Yet advanced aliens, having reached an important deci- 
sion, would presumably be capable of preventing opponents of that decision 
from doing anything to undermine it. 

Their second mistake is even more indefensible: having set in motion 
events to cause Earth’s doom in 2042, they proceed to ignore the planet while, 
during five years of frenetic work, humanity constructs an enormous, ultrathin, 
and intelligently flexible shield to provide our planet with sufficient protection 
against the sunstorm as to prevent complete devastation, though there will 
still be catastrophic consequences. Had they been paying attention, the Firstborn 
could have destroyed this shield in an instant and thus ensured the extinction 
of humanity; instead, work proceeds on schedule and humanity is saved. In 
this respect, these aliens resemble the absurd villain of melodramas who 
places the hero in an inescapable deathtrap, cackles with glee, and then, instead 
of lingering to watch the hero die, inexplicably departs to deal with other 
business, allowing the hero to escape from the trap. True, we are told in Sun- 
storm and Firstborn that the Firstborn placed an Eye near Jupiter to observe 
Earth’s destruction, but they obviously were not watching the planet very care- 

Further, the aliens’ surefire method of exterminating intelligent life must 
be counteracted on a fairly regular basis, bolstering the sense that they are 
incompetent, since they have a third step, a back-up system, in place: “But if 
the sunstorms don’t work, if worlds continue to be troublesome, they strike 
more surgically” (271) — by transforming an Eye into a “Q-Bomb” of dark 
energy which is directed to strike a “troublesome” planet and not only devastate 
it, but actually remove it from the universe. The menace of a Q-Bomb, due to 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


strike Earth in twenty-one months, provides the plot for the trilogy’s third vol- 
ume, Firstborn. 

Again, however, the Firstborn bungle the job. First, we learn that many 
millennia ago, a race of intelligent Martians managed to trap an Eye in a force- 
field, still present to be fortuitously discovered by twenty- first-century humans 
exploring Mars, before the Martians were exterminated by a Q-Bomb. (This 
raises multiple questions: how could advanced aliens allow a lesser race to do 
this? If they wanted to eliminate the Martians, why did they proceed directly 
to a Q-Bomb instead of unleashing a sunstorm? If ancient Mars was struck by 
a Q-Bomb, why did the now-lifeless planet remain in our universe? But one 
tires of pointing out unresolved issues in this story). Then, Dutt is transported 
back to Mir, where she discovers that its universe contains not only an amal- 
gamated Earth, but amalgamated versions of the Solar System’s other planets, 
including a patchwork Mars with one intelligent Martian. (But why would the 
Firstborn bother to do this, since Mir was created only as a way to study Earth’s 
history?) On Mir, Edison figures out that humans can send a message to Mars— 
a string of symbols extracted from the force-field the Martians placed around 
the Eye — by carving immense ditches forming those symbols, filling them with 
combustible materials, and lighting them on fire so Martian astronomers can 
observe them. When the Martian sees the symbols, she realizes that another 
race needs assistance in fighting the Firstborn and, by means of advanced sci- 
ence, her “gravitational cage crushed the Firstborn Eye” (294). This for some 
reason distresses not only the duplicate Eye on the Mir universe’s Mars, but 
also the original Eye on our Mars, causing it to send out a distress signal which, 
when detected by the Q-Bomb, inspires the intelligent bomb to alter its course 
and strike not Earth but Mars, now perceived as the greater threat. In other 
words, like the aliens in Clarke’s original series, these Firstborn have also con- 
structed a flawed, inept machine, capable of being diverted from its mission by 
an obvious diversionary tactic. 

Like 3001, Firstborn concludes with an opening for a sequel: Dutt and 
daughter Myra are transported by the Eye to a barren plain, probably Earth in 
the far future, where they meet a woman resembling Dutt’s granddaughter who 
says, “We call ourselves the Lastborn. We are at war. We are losing)....] Please. 
Come with me now” (359). Thus, one easily envisions another trilogy involving 
an alliance of younger races which would successfully oppose the Firstborn and 
devise a better way to address the problem of the universe’s finite supply of 
energy. But, in light of the mess that the Time Odyssey trilogy became, one 
must be pleased that no such continuation emerged. 

The sad thing about this failed project is that it had genuinely interesting 
features. For one thing. Time’s Eye includes a brief, almost atavistic, remnant 
of the original story line of 2001, in that an australopithecine named Grasper 
was subjected by one Eye to a “probing of her body and mind.” However, since 
“the probing had been clumsy,” her “half- formed mind had been stirred,” mak- 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

ing her “a creature with potential,” though “there was no particular reason why 
that potential had to be realized exactly as it had been before.” In a deliberate 
echo of 2001, Grasper “hefted the heavy stone in her hand,” recognized that she 
was now “master of the world,” and while “not quite sure what to do next,” she 
knew “she would think of something” (361-362). The concept of a new and 
different form of humanity, this time created not intentionally but accidentally 
by the always-blundering Firstborn, is fascinating, but while Grasper briefly 
reappears in Firstborn as a more intelligent being, nothing else is done with the 

The Eyes themselves also command attention. Although we see numerous 
Eyes throughout the trilogy, we are repeatedly told that “There was only one 
Eye, though it had many projections into spacetime. And it had many functions” 
{Time’s Eye 349); the energies it emits when serving as a transportation device 
indicate that, like the monolith, it is an object of more than three dimensions; 
and when the Eye is measured, the ratio of its circumference to its diameter is 
not pi, but exactly three, indicating that it is an object not of our universe. It 
is incomprehensible that beings intelligent enough to craft such an object could 
be stupid enough to make the simple mistakes that doom their lethal plans; it 
is depressing to speculate that such scientiflc advances, and such stupid, sinister 
actions, might be said to represent humanity’s probable future. And if authors 
as astute as Clarke and Baxter can be driven to such an unlikely, disheartening 
portrait of the imagined evolution of intelligent life, it does suggest that there 
may be fundamental, irresolvable problems in efforts to predict the eventual 
fate of the human race. 

As this long odyssey draws to a close, there is time for some general con- 
clusions about science Action’s efforts to depict humanity’s future, drawn pri- 
marily from the 2001 saga but with sidelong glances at other texts. 

The first lesson is the point made by Kirby — that it may be fundamentally 
impossible for present-day humans to accurately predict the nature of super- 
humans. Recognizing that analogies are both a tool and trap for prognosticators, 
one might consider an ant, temporarily endowed with a modicum of intelli- 
gence and imagination, asked to envision a super-ant. This posited being would 
surely have enhanced abilities to construct larger and more complex anthills, 
better locate and retrieve food, and nurture a larger number of offspring — to 
do everything that an ant does, only in a superior fashion. But could this ant 
conceive of an advanced creature who could plant crops, devise a monetary 
system, build a steam engine, or write an opera? That is, members of a super- 
human species may indeed be smarter, more powerful, and kinder than we are, 
but they may also be able and inclined to do things we cannot begin to imagine. 
Thus, science fiction’s best portrayals of intelligences beyond our own may be 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


stories like Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris (1961) and Terry Carr’s “The Dance of the 
Changer and the Three” (1968) that limit themselves to describing bizarre alien 
behavior without attempting to explain it — conveying that genuine superbeings 
would be incomprehensible to present-day humans. 

Second, by employing another reasonable but flawed technique for 
prophecy, extrapolation, writers can ponder how humanity has progressed, 
posit those trends will continue, and develop minimal images of more advanced 
humans and aliens. Thus, observing that humans have grown less violent, one 
logically imagines that a superhuman would be vehemently opposed to violence, 
like the Star Child at the end of Clarke’s 2001 or the alliance of pacifistic worlds 
united to prevent conflicts in space described by the alien Klaatu in the original 
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). And, noting that we have become less 
inclined to kill other animals and more inclined to nurture and protect them, 
one logically imagines that superhumans would be even more committed to 
preserving and improving lesser forms of life, like Kirby’s fifth New Seed, the 
aliens in Clarke’s sequels to 2001, or the alien races which “uplift” other species 
to intelligence in David Brin’s Startide Rising (1983). 

Third, if writers feel unable to go beyond such reasonable but unadven- 
turous projections of advanced beings, they may simply abandon efforts to 
depict successors to humanity. This is what happened to Kirby, as he stopped 
writing about the New Seed and starting writing about Machine Man, and what 
Clarke essentially did in transforming the Star Child from homo superior to the 
monolith’s servant. As another example, consider Isaac Asimov, who in the 
1980s, like Clarke, returned to his most famous epic, adding new volumes to 
his Foundation trilogy while also connecting the saga to his robot stories. As 
one new development. Foundation’s Edge (1982) introduced as a possible model 
for human advancement a form of group intelligence on the planet Gaea, cre- 
ating the possibility that he might conclude the series not only with the predicted 
reestablishment of a Galactic Empire, but also with a leap forward in human 
evolution not unlike that observed in Childhood’s End. However, as if unwilling 
to move in that direction, Asimov left his narrative unfinished and instead 
turned to its back story, concluding the series with two “prequels,” Prelude to 
Foundation (1988) and Forward the Foundation (1993), describing the life of 
Hari Seldon, the psychohistorian who founded the saga’s foundations. “ 

Fourth, as another way to avoid detailed examinations of an envisioned 
superrace, writers may endeavor to effectively change the subject. One strategy 
is to assume that advanced beings will be not only concerned, but positively 
obsessed, with the progress of lesser species. This draws attention away from 
strange beings, who are frustratingly difficult to describe, toward familiar 
beings, who are easy to describe. Thus, aside from a few generalities, virtually 
all we learn about the Firstborn in Clarke’s 2001 series, and Clarke and Baxter’s 
Time Odyssey, involves their opinions of humans and similar species and their 
interventions into their affairs. Other writers have moved in a similar direction; 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

for example, while most people regard Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker (1937) as 
the continuation of Last and First Men (1930), that book actually had a direct 
sequel, the little-known Last Men in London (1932), wherein a representative 
of Stapledon’s hyper-advanced Eighteenth Men travels into the past to display 
an inordinate fascination with the daily life of a typical resident of present-day 
London. Despite an introduction justifying “The Future’s Concern with the 
Past,”^^ this interest does not appear logical; but it allows Stapledon to say little 
about his future superhumans and their life on Neptune while saying a lot about 
what his fellow humans are doing right now. 

To say the least, based on our knowledge of human history, it seems inde- 
fensible to posit that superbeings will be driven to study and meddle in the 
affairs of lesser beings as their main activity. True, numerous people today are 
dedicated to breeding or nurturing animals like dogs, cats, and horses, and 
almost every organism on the planet has attracted at least a few scientists who 
are fascinated by, and feel a special bond with, the creatures they study. But no 
human culture as a whole has predominantly focused its energies on improving 
animals, and it is hard to imagine that a superhuman race would envision uplift- 
ing lesser species as its primary purpose. One more reasonably assumes, as 
Clarke does in Against the Fall of Night and Childhood’s End, that a superrace 
would have little if any interest in the doings of its predecessors and would per- 
manently withdraw from their company; but while writers can readily portray 
this attitude when a story concludes with the creation or discovery of advanced 
beings, it is a problematic premise when beginning a story about such beings. 

Fifth, if writers continue efforts to depict a superhuman species, they may 
fall victim to the sentiment of the saying “familiarity breeds contempt” and 
make these beings seem more and more like ordinary humans. Thus, in the 
original 2001, the monoliths, and aliens who constructed them, were presented 
as omniscient, omnipotent, and incapable of error; they had a plan for devel- 
oping and improving humanity, and they carried it out flawlessly. In Clarke’s 
sequels, however, there emerged a sense that the monolith builders were distant, 
and not always capable, manipulators of humanity, and their machines were 
seen as deteriorating and potentially inclined to disastrous mistakes; those 
aliens’ counterparts in the Time Odyssey trilogy, as noted, were downright evil 
and even less competent. As another example, consider the character of Q, ini- 
tially presented in the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Encounter 
at Farpoint” (1987), as a member of an amazingly advanced superrace with 
knowledge and abilities far beyond those of mere humans; yet as he reappears 
in later episodes of that series. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager, 
he became a comic character, easily outwitted or outmaneuvered by the humans 
he loved to visit and prone to any number of human weaknesses. 

Sixth, as another aspect of this tendency to regard superbeings as similar 
to typical humans, writers may resort to humanity’s ancient tendency in con- 
fronting unknown intruders— to classify them as either “friend” or “foe” and 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


respond accordingly— and start characterizing these enigmatic creatures in 
such conventional terms— despite the logical expectation that advanced races 
would have complex motives not well described by these simple categories. One 
need not reiterate that evil aliens have long been a mainstay of popular science 
fiction, but even writers who are intelligent enough to reject such stereotypes 
may drift toward similar portrayals, as seen in the Time Odyssey trilogy. And 
if writers are uncomfortable portraying superbeings as enemies, they can always 
transform them into friends. That is the scenario of Clarke and Pohl’s The Last 
Theorem: advanced aliens called the Grand Galactics first plan to eradicate the 
flawed human race, but when one of them visits Earth and sees signs of progress, 
they not only reverse their decision and spare humanity from destruction, but 
also decide, generously and implausibly, to bequeath to humans their role as 
guardians of the galaxy. 

Even in the greatest science fiction novel to wrestle with the vexing question 
of the ultimate destiny of intelligent life, Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker, the briefly 
observed ultimate being is described by the hapless narrator using the language 
of “friend” or “foe.” When the Cosmic Mind that combines all the universe’s 
most developed species encounters their universe’s creator, the Star Maker, the 
entity rejects their approach, and the Cosmic Mind then describes the creator 
with what seems like justifiable anger: 

I cried out against my ruthless maker. I cried out that, after all, the creature was 
nobler than the creator; for the creature loved and craved love, even from the star 
that was the Star Maker; but the creator, the Star Maker, neither loved nor had need 
of love. 

But the Cosmic Mind regrets this outburst and comes to realize that the Star 
Maker is, from his limited perspective, somehow both villain and hero: “Irra- 
tionally, yet with conviction, I gave my adoration to the Star Maker as com- 
prising both aspects of his dual nature, both the ‘good’ and the ‘evil,’ both the 
mild and the terrible, both the humanly ideal and the incomprehensibly inhu- 
man” (421). It is striking that, even in this grandest effort to conceive the incon- 
ceivable — a creature infinitely more advanced than humanity — the author falls 
back upon crude, anthropocentric concepts of “good” and “evil.” 

Einally, as writers allow posited superbeings to gradually descend to the 
status of all-too-human fools, scoundrels, or bosom buddies, their only recourse 
is to start all over again: to indicate that, beyond the once-exalted level of their 
original creations, there exists an even more advanced race of beings, as high 
above them as those beings are above humans, and to suggest that this newly 
unveiled species might actually embody the sublime perfection once associated 
with the first superbeings. This is how Clarke effectively both abandons and 
relaunches his 2001 saga in the conclusion of 3001, and hints of a similar super- 
super-race also figure in the Time Odyssey trilogy. As another example, Pohl’s 
Gateway (1977) initially involves an unseen but highly advanced alien race, the 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

Heechee, whose abandoned spaceships are exploited by future humans in search 
of knowledge and wealth. However, as the second novel in its series, Beyond 
the Blue Event Horizon (1979), says more about the Heechee, and the third novel, 
Heechee Rendezvous (1984), brings them onstage, we learn that the Heechee, 
despite their superior technology, are not as superhuman as they appeared, 
since they are hiding near a black hole to avoid an even more powerful race, 
the Assassins, intent upon destroying and refashioning the entire universe. 
However, after bringing the Heechee down to human-like status and intro- 
ducing a new race as superhuman alternatives to humanity, the series’ fourth 
novel. The Annals of the Heechee (1987), refashions the Assassins themselves as 
comforting friends, since their efforts to rid the universe of matter and construct 
a universe of pure energy now seem desirable. The stage is set for the appearance 
of a third race far above the Assassins who might recapture the aura of awe and 
mystery previously associated first with the Heechee and then with the Assas- 
sins, but Pohl instead brought the series to an end — despite the appearance of 
two later volumes. The Gateway Trip (1990) and The Boy Would Who Live For- 
ever: A Novel of Gateway (2004), that follow Asimov’s example and are “pre- 
quels” offering stories that took place before The Annals of the Heechee. This 
also makes Pohl’s series another example of an epic about humanity’s future 
that concludes not by going forward, but by going backward. 

Still, despite the inherent difficulties, or sheer impossibility, of the task, 
science fiction writers may always feel compelled to continue their endless 
odyssey of attempting to envision a future humanity that is significantly more 
advanced than ourselves, or alien races of equivalent stature, even if they find 
themselves unable to bring their sagas to a satisfactory conclusion. We must 
ponder our own eventual destiny and explore those thoughts in stories, even 
while recognizing the essential futility of the effort. Perhaps, then, there is some 
truth in Kirby’s observation about the underlying message of the 2001 saga, 
that “the New Seed is no more than the spirit of our own self-belief, our own 
confidence in the stubborn rationale which has brought us from the caves to 
condominiums.” In other words, the same drive and determination that will 
enable humanity to succeed and progress in the future also leads writers to 
constantly try, and constantly fail, to imagine the exact forms that that progress 
will take. Thus, all the noble, fruitless struggles to extend a narrative that cannot 
be meaningfully extended, as examined here, may collectively represent, in 
their own way, a story that is as interesting and inspirational as 2001: A Space 
Odyssey itself. 


1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1968). 

2. Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on a screenplay by Stanley Kubrick 
and Clarke (New York: Signet Books, 1968), 221. Subsequent page references in the text 
are to this edition. 

10. The Endless Odyssey (Westfahl) 


3. Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001 (New York: Signet Books, 1972), 238. 

4. Jack Kirby, writer and artist, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Marvel Treasury Special (New 
York: Marvel Comics Group, 1976), 71. 

5. Kirby, writer and artist, “Beast-Killer,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, No. 1 (December, 

1976) , 3. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

6. Kirby, writer and artist, “Wheels of Death,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, No. 4 (March, 

1977) , 31. 

7. Kirby, “Monolith Mail,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, No. 1 (December, 1976), 19. Sub- 
sequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

8. Kirby, writer and artist, “Vira the She-Demon,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, No. 2 
(January, 1977). 

9. Kirby, writer and artist, “Marak!,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, No. 3 (February, 1977). 
Note: the cover gives the title as “Marak the Merciless,” but 1 regard the title on the 
story’s first page as definitive. 

10. Kirby, writer and artist, “Norton of New York 2040 a.d.,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, 
No. 5 (April, 1977); “Inter-Galactica: The Ultimate Trip,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, No. 6 
(May, 1977). 

11. Sam Powell, letter, “Monolith Mail,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, No. 5 (April, 1977), 

12. Mike Underwood, Sam Hays, and Mark Boersma, letters, “Monolith Mail,” 2001: 
A Space Odyssey, No. 6 (May, 1977), 19. 

13. Kirby, writer and artist, “The New Seed,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, No. 7 (June, 
1977), 7. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

14. Kirby, writer and artist, “The Capture of X-51,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, No. 8 
(July, 1977), 3. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

15. Kirby, writer and artist, “Mister Machine,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, No. 9 (August, 
1977), 22. 

16. Kirby, writer and artist, “Hotline to Hades,” 2001: A Space Odyssey, No. 10 (Sep- 
tember, 1977). 

17. Clarke, Childhood’s End (1953; New York: Ballantine Books, 1967), 202-203. Sub- 
sequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

18. Clarke, 2010: Odyssey Two (New York: Del Rey/Ballantine Books, 1982), 266-267. 
Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

19. 2010: The Year We Make Contact (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1984). 

20. Clarke, 2061: Odyssey Three (New York: Del Rey/Ballantine Books, 1982), 268. 
Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

21. Clarke, 3001: The Pinal Odyssey (1997; New York: Del Rey/Ballantine Books, 1999), 
5. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

22. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, Time’s Eye: Book One of A Time Odyssey (2004; New 
York: Del Rey/Ballantine Books, 2005), [v]. Subsequent page references in the text are 
to this edition. 

23. Clarke and Baxter, Pirstborn: A Time Odyssey: 3 (New York: Del Rey/Ballantine 
Books, 2008), 293. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

24. Clarke and Baxter, Sunstorm: A Time Odyssey: 2 (New York: Del Rey/Ballantine 
Books, 2007), 198-199. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

25. Gary Westfahl, “Greyer Lensmen, Or Looking Backward in Anger,” Interzone, 
No. 129 (March, 1998), 40-43. 

26. In “What Science Fiction Leaves Out of the Future, #2: The Day After Tomorrow,” 
The Internet Review of Science Fiction, March, 2009, at http://www.irosf.eom/q/zine/ 
article/10528, I also discuss how Asimov’s Foundation series and other science fiction 
epics tend to remain incomplete and look backward, probably because writers are unwill- 
ing to explore the issue of humanity’s eventual destiny, and acknowledge (as I should 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

acknowledge here) that George Slusser has analyzed this phenomenon in his own fashion, 
most thoroughly in “Dimorphs and Doubles: J. D. Bernal’s ‘Two Cultures’ and the Tran- 
shuman Promise,” Science Fiction and the Two Cultures: Essays on Bridging the Gap 
between the Sciences and the Humanities, ed. Westfahl and Slusser (Jefferson, NC: McFar- 
land Publishers, 2009), 96-129. 

27. Olaf Stapledon, “Introduction: The Future’s Concern with the Past,” Last Men in 
London, 1932, in Last and First Men and Last Men in London, by Stapledon (Middlesex, 
England: Penguin Books, 1973), 335-337. 

28. Stapledon, Star Maker, 1937, in Last and First Men and Star Maker: Two Science- 
Fiction Novels by Olaf Stapledon, by Stapledon (New York: Dover Books, 1968), 410. Sub- 
sequent page references in the text are to this edition. 


Intercultural and Interface 

Kung Fu as Abstract Machine 

Wong Kin Yuen 

As reflected in the title, this chapter deals primarily with the prefix “inter” 
within the context of cultural studies. It was a direct response to the need to estab- 
lish a theoretical paradigm for my teaching and research when I suddenly discov- 
ered, about five years ago, that I was thrown into something called “Intercultural 
Studies” without knowing too much about it. After some research, I learned the 
discipline of “intercultural communication” which was rather common in Europe 
as a field related to applied linguistics. Realizing that this was not what I had in 
mind, I then slowly developed a way of understanding the term; and what follows 
represents some thoughts as to how this field is similar to but different from cul- 
tural studies per se. These thoughts involve basic concepts such as interdiscipli- 
narity, in-betweenness, othering, and finally the Deleuzian philosophy of 
difference. I will stretch the prefix “inter” to include “interface” within cyberculture 
to show how a hermeneutics of difference and virtuality could well be the future 
of such a counterdisciplinary praxis. In conclusion, after using a number of 
sequences in kung fu and science fiction films for illustration, I will note the inad- 
equacy of cultural studies, pointing out how the Deleuzian flat ontology of affect 
and sensation can lead one step further into what I call intercultural studies itself. 

So, what is interculturality? It may be best to first note what it is not. Inter- 
culturality, for one thing, can never be preoccupied with the eternal and 
unchanging; it opposes all notions of fixed cultures or any culture in and of 
itself.' It is therefore in stark contrast to any monoculturalist thinking as “a 
form of enclosure in which what is alien can be rendered intelligible only by 
reducing it to the same.”^ Compared to terms like “cross-cultural” and “mul- 
ticultural” (under which a cluster of terms such as postcolonial, hybrid, and 
diaspora have evolved among themselves with sharp political connotations), 
interculturalism seems “a better term to describe the porosity of cultures,” 
which “addresses the question of how, without limiting the analysis to formal 



Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

encounters between cultures, communication between a plurality of incom- 
mensurable cultures takes place” (Bernasconi 288). Whereas “cross-cultural” 
and “multicultural” retain remnants of the idea that cultures are discrete and 
autonomous, interculturalism directs our attention to the overlapping area 
between cultures, emphasizing that cultures do change as they interact with 
each other. It is more pervasive than the standard multicultural model allows, 
and is practiced in such a way that the plurality of cultures is not compromised 
in the direction of hybridism (Bernasconi 290). 

For me, the most salient aspect of an interdisciplinary approach lies not 
with a mish-mash of humanities and social sciences, but with how science stud- 
ies (to me an important sub-field in cultural studies) can be affiliated with 
humanities. Today, literary and cultural critics alike have become bold enough 
to peer into molecular biology, molecular genetics, and genetic engineering; 
they are also interested in the implosion of informatics and biologies, cloning, 
and the transgenetics of plant and animal, not to mention chaos theories, com- 
plex systems theories, and quantum mechanics, which all can be studied in 
terms of their cultural dimension, situatedness (i.e. Donna Haraway’s situated 
knowledge) and relation with aesthetics ( since fractals can be refractions of 
science into art, we now have fractal architecture in urban studies and fractured 
identity in literary studies), and so on.’ 

In the famous “Macy Conferences” beginning in 1949, Norbert Wiener 
was already practicing interdisciplinarity by inviting scientists and scholars in 
the humanities to work out principles for the development of cybernetics. In 
1991, a full quarter seminar at DC Humanities Research Center was devoted to 
the Human Genome Project, where scholars concentrated on “the cultural pro- 
ductions of the genome” and how they could be related to “musical, artistic, 
educational and similar cultural productions. 

Before I go into the actual “cultural geography” to give “inter” a “place” 
in our teaching and research, I should note that because of this privileging of 
territoriality, interdisciplinarity cannot simply be an attempt to blur disciplinary 
boundaries, nor just a pluralist jumble of things. Instead, the in-betweenness 
Homi Bhabha refers to must be put in a circuit of territorialization and 
de(re)territorialization, where the very “edge” of a cutting-edge practice is 
maintained at all times and at which the “shiftings” of paradigms are being 
enacted. I will endeavor to show that the act of “cutting” itself would precede 
even the “edge.” It is exactly at this point that the “inter” of intercultural studies 
goes beyond cultural studies in general, since it is here that Gilles Deleuze’s, 
rather Henri Bergson’s, conceptualizations of time, process, and movement can 
join forces, and force is the very spirit of interculturalism. Here we should 
recall that the word “discipline” has a double-binding meaning of both hard 
work and disciplinary control; therefore, a counter-disciplinary praxis would 
be important to safeguard our critical endeavors from becoming another grand 
narrative, another institutionalized “area” of studies in universities. 

11. Intercultural and Interface (Yuen) 


For young students in Hong Kong, intercultural studies will enable them 
to look at the urban space as both a place and a flow. With its colonial history, 
Hong Kong can be projected as one forerunner of the future megacity.^ Move- 
ments and settlements of the city as flow, and as borderization of the world, as 
many cities in the world are now characterized by this “woof of human 
motion,”'’ propel Hong Kong citizens to follow “ways of going out and coming 
back in ‘on the edge of empires.’”^ In their traveling, Hong Kong citizens prac- 
tice radical happenings or events as “world-travelers,” effecting a kind of cross- 
ing-of-zones duration which is characterized as incomplete, “between worlds.”* 
It is of course this opportunity for Hong Kong citizens to create narratives along 
their lines of flight, reflecting their “subject’s self-positioning and social agency 
in a cosmopolitan context,”^ that makes Hong Kong a model for the global 
megalopolis of the future. As cosmopolitans, and under concepts such as trans- 
ethnicity, transnationality, and hyphenated identities, the youth of Hong Kong 
should be educated to form new world views. Through cultural mixture in the 
interval, the “push and pull” of globalizing tendencies, new combinations can 
be created in a plurality of knowledges, of cultures and their continuous fusion. 

This intercultural also deals with the issue of hybridity, around which 
ideas such as hyphenated identity, neological as well as technical splicing, and 
“othering” revolve. The “other,” of course, has been a key word for cultural 
critics, and in terms of Gadamerian hermeneutics, one recalls that achieving 
an understanding of the authentic being of another radically different culture 
should be grounded in a celebration of difference in otherness. A hermeneutics 
of cultural hybridity stresses, according to Jurgen Habermas, “the point of rup- 
ture” which “compensates for the brokenness of intersubjectivity,”“ whereas 
Hans-Georg Gadamer made it clear that understanding can be achieved only 
through recognizing the voice of the other when he emphasizes the necessity 
of “putting one’s own horizon at risk” when interpreting the other." Such a 
move towards “a more radical hermeneutic” is for Jacques Derrida the “only 
way to let the other come,” so the Derridean difference could propagate an 
indefinite slippage of transfers and changes under a “structural non-knowing 
which is heterogeneous and foreign to knowledge.”'^ But even a radical 
hermeneutics may not be able to catch up with the posthuman condition, and 
what we may need, as Mark Hansen says, is a “robust posthermeneutic realism 
concerning culture and technology.”'* 

Hong Kong citizens’ way of embracing racial and cultural differences on 
the edge of empires must be modeled on Michel Foucault’s “geohistory of oth- 
erness” in his “Of Other Spaces.”'^ In this essay Foucault goes into the primacy 
of sites within our everyday life experiences when ambiguity, heterogeneity, 
and overlappings are instrumental to establishing a relation with our urban 
environment. By pointing to places such as utopia, mental hospitals, jails, rest 
homes, national boundaries, cemeteries, zoos, museums and even Disneyland, 
and finally third world cities, Foucault brings out the territorialities of doubts. 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

subversions where foldings occur within a double-bind of dominance and 
resistance. To this list 1 would add the space of flows, i.e., the virtual reality or 
cyberspace where dialectics of on-line/off-line, difference/hybrid, crisis/devi- 
ation, surveillance/surfing, and striated/smooth contours are dramatically per- 
formed and what Bruno Latour calls the “actor-network perspective” begins to 
make sense in understanding what our cultural/geographical environment is 
like.'^ All these, finally, can be summed up by Edward Soja’s idea of the third 
space, captured by an act of “thirding as Othering” towards an alternative world 
of critically fulfilling hybrid haven. “ The traumas of immigration that Hong 
Kong people face, as presented through their lived experience of other spaces, 
can be understood by a general theory of global cultural processes. For Arjun 
Appadurai, chaos theory is the approach to such understanding, since he con- 
siders “the configuration of cultural forms in today’s world as fundamentally 
fractal.” To “compare fractally shaped cultural forms which are also polythet- 
ically overlapping in their coverage of terrestrial space ... we will need to ask 
how these complex, overlapping, fractal shapes constitute not a simple, stable 
(even if large-scale) system, but to ask what its dynamics are.” In other words, 
Appadurai proposes, “in a world of disjunctive global flows, it is perhaps impor- 
tant to start asking ... [questions] in a way that relies on images of flow and 
uncertainty ... chaos, rather than an older images of order, stability and sys- 
temacity” (20). 

Whereas chaos theory and fractal geometry are instrumental to the devel- 
opment of virtual reality or cyberspace, one key term recapitulating the con- 
nectedness between intercultural studies and our information age would be 
“interface,” a term situating itself right at the in-betweenness of the kind of 
cultural imaginary which goes beyond the cultural structure of class, gender, 
and race, but reaches the domain of human/machine splicing in a context of 
posthuman evolution and virtuality.'^ 

Here 1 claim that intercultural studies in the 21st century must move into 
cyberculture, if we are to push the logic of “inter” into an open-ended world 
of becomings. Interface has a history of its own, dating back to how humans 
were intimidated by the computer as a machine when it first saw the light of 
day. As a term, it announces the presence of faces between faces, reminding us 
that at the point of contact between human and machine, ours is only one 
among many. Interface culture therefore designates a connectedness of borders, 
an act of communication, or a threshold at which two or more entities interact 
with each other. It emerges right at a fantastic point where the medium and 
message cannot distinguish one from the other; and it represents continuous 
discoveries of similar behavior patterns between human and machine. Between 
the two, the computer screen is the most visible part of interface, connecting 
devices of interactivity in response to the users’ demand; and between them a 
“social space” is established within Latour’s actor-network perspective where 
both human and machine can be actor in turn and co-determine each other.'* 

11. Intercultural and Interface (Yuen) 


With virtual reality, as well as the identity of cyborgs of any kind, fractured 
subjects are becoming multiple and decentered, and their “bodies” will be rein- 
scribed into alternative forms. Similar to the internet, interface possesses the 
same kind of hybridity as the intercultural, and the reciprocality of interfaces 
would endlessly create other new interfaces towards a posthuman condition. 

But the concept of interface does not stop at electronically mediated com- 
munication; it can move forward to embrace the virtuality of cyborg identity, 
as well as refer backward to a kind of neo-evolutionism developed by Gilles 
Deleuze’s biophilosophy. The idea of the cyborg, once sustained by the kind of 
unstabling qualities of othering of self as described by Haraway as “compounds 
of the organic, mythic, textual, economic and political” (172), can then liberate 
humans from their false naturalism through thematization of their own con- 
structedness. On the other hand, these alternate life-forms can hearken back 
to the originary differential rhythms and affective intensities of evolution, so 
as to find a way out of the impasse of cultural confrontations between, say, 
humanism and posthumanism, the global and local, or monoculturalism and 
interculturalism. Since any future development of computer interface (or sci- 
entific prediction of such a development, called futurology) will have to, accord- 
ing to Ray Kurzweil, go back millions of years to how the Earth evolved into 
the present state, we now realize that “the human is necessarily bound up with 
an originary technicity,”^“ and “evolution is nothing but technic.”^' Following 
Foucault’s “hermeneutics of refusal,” a refusal to answer the question “Who 
are we?,”^^ we can now place our endeavors in intercultural studies within the 
contour of the Deleuzian hermeneutics of becomings “that overspills the anthro- 
pomorphic strata in all directions” (Deleuze and Guattari 503). The merger 
between interdisciplinary, intercultural studies, and interface will trigger forth 
a discourse of chaos accelerating the evolution of biological and artificial life, 
where the posthuman is simply a concept which “envisions the conscious mind 
as a small subsystem running its program of self-construction and self-assur- 
ance while remaining ignorant of the actual dynamics of complex systems. 

As different from the subject which roots itself in presence as a unified, self- 
centered entity, such a discourse of interface or technological splicing is “located 
within the dialectic of pattern/randomness ... and offers resources for rethinking 
the articulation of humans with intelligent machines” (Hayles 287). 

A technoscience (or interface) hermeneutics, therefore, embraces Fatour’s 
proliferation of hybrids and his actor-network perspectives, as well as Haraway ’s 
proclamation that this is the time of cyborgs, machines, and chimeras. It reaches 
far to include Hayles’s delineation of a process from hyphenation to splicing 
within a human-machine feedback loop, much in the spirit of the ontological 
hermeneutic circle first expounded by Martin Heidegger. Together with the 
Heideggerian Gelassenheit attitude in scientific praxis, this hermeneutics points 
directly to a social space where both animate and inanimate actors refuse to 
succumb to the pre-given possibilities of molar aggregates. Instead, it is a space 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

where machinic assemblages are articulated in such a way that multiplicities, 
non-linear interconnectedness and mutually determinings among fellow social 
actors are actualized. As Andrew Feenberg reminds us, “Difference in the way 
social groups interpret and use the objects are not merely extrinsic but make 
a difference in the nature of the objects themselves.”^'* All aspects of techno- 
logical assemblage become a social milieu or network of relations, themselves 
the results of an abstract machine of stratification. The working of actual 
machines is such, however, that flows are allowed in every direction among all 
elements, to be propelled by some liquid energy which structures singularities; 
meanwhile, the way these relations or “interfaces” proliferate is like strata or 
rhizomes growing up from everywhere, and here “it is not clear who makes 
and who is made in relation between human and machine. Technologies and 
human relations together make up a social space wherein circuits of territori- 
alization and de(re)territorialization are generated, all the while sticking close 
to the kind of embodiment of particular configurations which contextualize 
social experience as Hayles has it, or the kind of multiplicities, haecceities, and 
singularities as Deleuze has it. 

A technoscience hermeneutics implicates both human meaning and the 
process of evolution emerging from artificial and post-biological “life systems.” 
Within a dynamics of both meaning and systems hooked up and responsive to 
their own environment, genuine interplay between them will make the world 
into “a creative, complexifying, problematizing cauldron of becoming. In 
an essay on how Deleuze’s “transcendental empiricism” bears on cultural studies 
in general, Ian Buchanan compares the concept of agency in the latter with the 
former’s subject which can transcend the given in an empirical way. He points 

According to Deleuze, the determination that relations are external to their terms is 
the condition of possibility for a solution to the empiricist problem of how a subject 
transcending the given can be constituted in the given. It is the “solution,” as it were, 
that gives rise to transcendental empiricism. Thus, in order to ascertain whether 
empiricist methods are going to be valuable to cultural studies, we have to determine 
whether the externality of relations can contribute anything to an understanding of 
how culture operates. 

What Deleuze means by relations being external to their terms is that an 
idea is “but a multiplicity constituted of differential elements, differential rela- 
tions between these elements, and singularities corresponding to those rela- 
tions. It seems that, according to Manuel De Landa, Deleuze’s subject is a 
given (through empirical experiences) which can simultaneously transcend the 
given because our idea of subjectivity results from our way of grouping ideas 
about it, which after all are in principle external to their relations among them. 
De Landa further notes that “the aim of cultural studies should be to provide 
a theory of culture that can accommodate” both the subject being given and 
subject transcending the given; then, “By contrasting the subject dually, tran- 

11. Intercultural and Interface (Yuen) 


scendental empiricism does in fact furnish the grounds for just such a theory, 
showing that the subject is the product of social mechanisms and the subject 
is capable of manipulating those mechanisms” (106). 

Here I cannot provide the details of Deleuze’s “association,” “appropria- 
tion,” and “affect” which make the establishment of agency possible; suffice it 
to say that Deleuze moves away from a discourse of social resistance, hegemony, 
or dissent, which have established themselves as common catchwords in cultural 
studies, and ventures into what I call intercultural studies or the interface cul- 
ture of “the Multiple, the Different and the Aleatory” (Buchanan 110).^^ There 
is a sense of positive connectedness in Deleuze’s concept of difference and vir- 
tuality, since they are fundamentally based on multiplicity tied together by the 
conjunction and: 

AND is neither one thing nor the other, it’s always in between, between two things; 
it’s the borderline, there’s always a border, a line of flight or flow, only we don’t see 
it, because it’s the least perceptible of things. And yet it’s along this line of flight that 
things come to pass, becomings evolve, revolutions take shape.’” 

I therefore propose to take up Deleuze’s philosophy of difference — how 
he sees difference differently — as my major observation of the way it supports 
the general direction of this chapter, namely from interdisciplinary to inter- 
cultural and interface. First, Deleuze looks for a principle of difference not just 
in cultural representations (language and signs) but mathematics and biology, 
epigenetic differentiation, and physics (quantum dynamics);’'; and he works 
out (with Felix Guattari) a biochemistry of schizophrenia through a difference 
based on “the quantitative difference between forces.”” Difference therefore is 
not derived from the same, nor is it a negative side of what exists as an entity, 
but a fundamental mechanism which gives life its various forms (Deleuze 1994 

For De Landa, Deleuze’s difference captures not what exists but a becoming 
(31); he uses thermodynamics as an example to show that difference is always 
“an interplay of intensity.” The point is not only that difference is the source 
of all living forms, but it also makes possible all genuine creation by letting 
“virtualities” begin a process of “actualization or differentiation” (34). Using 
examples in biogenetics and ecology such as phenotype, symbiosis, homeosta- 
tic, and autopoietic, and putting them into a feedback loop to interact with 
various kinds of nonlinear involution of folds, enfoldings, and unfolds, Deleuze 
and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus call these processes “intercalary oscilla- 
tions, synthesizers with at least two heads” (Deleuze and Guattari 239). Unlike 
human interpretation which more or less requires a subject, the way Deleuze 
thinks of difference differently is through what Alistair Welchman calls 
“machinic thinking” which moves away from anthropomorphism and reaches 
a kind of originary, objective (even scientific), network-like consciousness or 
intelligence of machinism.” Only after machinizing our thought can we situate 
our relation with the world through “a principle of immanent and non-linear 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

internal difference” (Deleuze 1994 27) and stipulate a virtual dynamic. By tran- 
scending the concept of agency and subjectivity in cultural studies, this brand 
of intercultural studies, this interface of human and machine, stipulates a 
machinic consciousness about the self being “really only consequences of com- 
plexity.”^^ Multiplicities and singularities under difference are really “thousands 
of little witnesses which contemplate within us” (Marks 86); it is always a third 
party continuously saying “me” (Deleuze 1994 75) in us within a machinic 
hermeneutic circle or feedback loop. 

Here difference coincides with virtuality since “the virtual/actual relation 
is governed by the principles of difference and creation.” Every act of actual- 
ization “involves the creation of heterogeneous terms for the lines of actual- 
ization are divergent, creating multiplicities and varieties. This is a movement 
of the emanation of a multiplicity from a virtual unity, divergent paths of devel- 
opment in different series and directions. In Difference and Repetition, 
Deleuze addresses the concept of immanence to capture the relation between 
“the event, multiplicity and the virtual.”’*’ Drawing upon Bergson and Spinoza, 
Deleuze posits an “internal difference” (Being from itself), namely “a co-artic- 
ulation of Being and difference within themselves.”’^ The most salient aspect 
of this difference is “difference as a degree of power of intensity” (Deleuze 1994 
145), manifested in its affective capacities, its potentials, what it is capable of 
Being; in other words, “the reality of the virtual or the problematic” (Smith 
179). Here, in the very mapping of territoriality, interculturalism moves from 
a preponderance of sites of negotiation to a more fundamentally biological and 
geological formation of all living forms, exemplified by bird songs and animal 
calls, what Ronald Bogue calls “the biology of melodic living forms.”” This is 
also a move (line of flight) from the molar (organized, signifying temptation 
and power), from locking singularities into systems (symbolic and metaphor- 
ical), towards haecceities, nomadic and signifying ruptures. Here, in a 
hermeneutics of difference and virtuality, our endeavor of intercultural studies 
can finally be firmly “placed.” 

For the purpose of illustration, not only as to how interface leads to alter- 
native life-forms, but also how it moves beyond representation, subjectivity, 
and agency, I turn to important sequences in recent kung fu films. These can 
be considered an ideal showcase for an interface between the classical techno- 
logical art of kung fu and modern cinema of action, particularly with the advent 
of digital technology. My first point here is the embodiment which bleeds into 
both the weapon (usually swords) and martial artists. Starting from learning 
to use a stick to gather fruits beyond the human hand’s reach, and from Greek 
mythology with the Sphinx’s third leg that aged animals/humans rely on, the 
stick has experienced millions of years of evolution in the projection/recipro- 
cation dialectics.’^ In SF films, we have an extension of this body-weapon “third- 
leg” embodiment, exemplified by films likeX-Me« (2000) or The Fantastic Four 
(2005). Such an embodiment has become part of the human body in, say, Chi- 

11. Intercultural and Interface (Yuen) 


nese Taoism, when we see a butcher skilled with his knife and old man catching 
cicadas with his sticky pole in an amazingly masterful manner. This hunchback, 
explaining his “way” to Confucius and his followers, says he could “hold my 
body like a stiff tree trunk and use my arm like an old dry limb.” What is impor- 
tant here is the Taoist idea that “when the body and vitality are without flaw, 
this is called being able to shift. To shift is to move into; it is not simply a 
movement of the body, but the capacity of the body to move in and out of its 
tool (or matter or weapon, for that matter), establishing a “nuanced” relation- 
ship with its technological device, the movement itself being technological 
through and through. 

As most swords are made of metal, their relation with hghters in martial 
art is best explained through a Deleuzian notion of the “machinic phylum,” or 
“flow of matter” as illustrated by the “metallic or metallurgical.”^' In A Thousand 
Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari are concerned with “nomadism,” a process of 
following contingencies or haecceities (events) of matters. But in Cinema 1, 
Deleuze uses the idea of the “non-organic life of things” to describe the pre- 
war French school of him which issues “a break with the organic” with a type 
of montage which plunges into “the vital as potent pre-organic germinality, 
common to the animate and the inanimate, to a matter which raises itself to 
the point of life, and a life which spreads itself through all matter.”^^ Deleuze 
and Guattari assert, “the living thing has an exterior milieu of materials, and 
interior milieu of composing elements and composed substances, and inter- 
mediary milieu of membranes and limits, and an annexed milieu to energy 
sources and actions-perceptions” (Deleuze and Guattari 313). Discussing the 
Deleuzian notion of virtuality in nonlinear causal relations within a process of 
“feedback loops” (much like Kaufman-Osborn’s projection/ reciprocation 
dialectics), De Landa uses metallurgy developed in the 19th century West to 
illustrate how goldsmiths go about in their trade where materials have their say 
towards the virtuality of their form (37). 

In the movie Hero, the technology of swordsplay is equated with calligra- 
phy, and the pair of swords used by Broken Sword (what a name for a swords- 
man!) and Flying Snow are referred to as lovers. Even Emperor Qin points out 
that “Swords are humans and humans are swords.”^’ More interesting here is 
the reed stick Broken Sword uses when he first appears in the film, practicing 
calligraphy on the sand. Instead of a brush, the calligrapher holds up the reed 
stick — with body standing upright, much like the cicada catcher in Chuang 
Tzu’s tale, moving it steadily on the sand in front of him, apparently absorbed 
in training himself in calligraphy and kung fu at the same time. Besides the 
reed stick, sand is another intriguing aspect of this sequence, because unlike 
other surfaces such as barks or bamboo plates, the materiality of sand is such 
that it spreads and gets swollen up easily and loosely, but immediately slides 
back and meshes, particle after particle, just as easily and spontaneously. Besides, 
much depends on how deep the reed stick reaches into the sand, since there 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

will be a differential quality of forces necessary for different layers with different 
textures of the sand structure. (In Chinese calligraphy theories, even papers 
have different textures in their way of absorbing ink, hence different expressive 

Whereas this is clearly a matter of “moving-in,” embodiment or swords- 
man splicing himself with the materiality of his artifice, I also suggest that this 
calligraphy/swordplay analogy is explained by the Deleuzian concept of tension 
(or balance) between “striated space” (rules of calligraphy) or “smooth space” 
which, as Thomas Lamarre observes, enables the calligrapher/swordsman to 
achieve “Juxtapositions, overlays, inlays, complication alternation that create 
new resonances.”^'* Using this pair of concepts, Lamarre also differentiates 
“imperial line” from “abstract line”; the former belongs to “center of gravity” 
and the latter to “center of motion” in Chinese calligraphy (Lamarre 158). From 
here it is not difficult for us to relate calligraphy with martial arts in general, 
since the tension between rules (imperial line) and creative repetition (smooth, 
motion, force, floating, hovering) is found in Hero. Brushwork, in Chinese cal- 
ligraphy, “has the potential to come close to the virtual; it strives toward that 
moment of inclusive disjunction” (Lamarre 159). What the brush does, the reed 
stick in Broken Sword’s hand does better, and it does more in oscillating and 
flickering, creating nuances of forceful intersections among materials and mat- 
ters in summoning a nomadic line that martial artists always look for.^^ 

In terms of how kung fu could be incorporated directly by computer inter- 
face, we turn to the famous SF film The Matrix (1999) for a glimpse of an inter- 
esting feedback loop at work between classical technology of kung fu and a 
futuristic posthuman condition through digital filming technology. It opens 
with a running scene; this time bodily capabilities are close to Wuta visuals on 
screen. This running sequence is preceded by a show of high-tech artifacts such 
as computer interface, a Nokia mobile phone, and an agent and police officer 
with powerful weapons. Confronted by police, a woman dressed in black dis- 
plays dexterity in kung fu techniques and even performs the impossible by rais- 
ing her whole body in the air like an eagle before delivering kicks; during the 
shoot-out sequence, she starts running on the walls. Then the action cuts to a 
chase on rooftops, recalling video game combat on one hand and the Chinese 
style of ching-gong (virtuoso speed), the discipline of bodily swiftness and 
weightless leaps, on the other hand. Here, The Matrix assumes suspension of 
disbelief by virtue of its genre and tries to keep the highly technologized feats 
unbroken as accepted realism. We later learn that the rebels must train them- 
selves in martial arts to cope with the ferocity of the avatars in power within 
the virtual reality of the matrix. Even Keanu Reeves’s hand-to-hand combat 
training relies on computer programs (we have a glimpse of the Chinese 
“Drunken Fist” and a couple of Tai Chi moves) before he proclaims that “I 
know kung fu.”^^ We have now come to a full circle of embodied experience of 
technology. To resist the authoritarian regime of a fully technologized posthu- 

11. Intercultural and Interface (Yuen) 


man world, rebels resort to this traditional technology of body training, so they 
can overcome their colonizers in cyberspace. Here, the way to parry the de- 
humanizing technological shock is to return to an embodied technology of 
human action. It is as if the virtuality of bodily capacity is being tapped into 
to resist the tyranny of virtual reality, with the help of other high-tech weapons 
and computers such as what happens in the Japanese science fiction anime Ghost 
in the Shell (1995). 

Returning to the chase sequence in The Matrix, we can say that the acro- 
batic feats performed by the woman and agent have little to offer except that 
the technological atmosphere is obviously foregrounded. It reminds us The 
One (2001) when we see the ever-energized Jet Li outrunning police cars. Per- 
sonally, 1 regard the two chase sequences in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 
(2000) as by far the most aesthetic and appealing to the eyes of Wuxia Pian fans 
to date, as far as Chinese “weightless leaps” on screen is concerned. The first 
sequence is right after Zhang Ziyi has stolen the Green Destiny and is being 
chased by Michelle Yeoh. The chase is presented in a most visible way: we see 
step-by-step, foot-over-foot details of the body movement, interlaced with fist- 
countering-fist, palm-confronting-palm — all the Lickings, climbings, pulling 
down of a foot; whenever action stops, it is when the women are mustering up 
for another round of attack. It is of course a product of “digital compositing,” 
which, according to Lev Manorich, means “assembling together a number of 
elements to create a single seamless object, here the object being seamless 
efforts in leaping and running on walls, rooftops, and so on. The sequence 
depicts a series of intense moments of escaping and catching, but the effect is 
stunning in that action is presented almost in unison, and the camera’s fluidity 
enhances a fluidity of body movement in perfect uninterruption and continuity. 
For viewers, it is simply “pure poetry of the body as it exceeds the expectations 
of normal physical reality,”'*® a new aesthetics of body-in-motion choreography 
seamlessly merged with the virtual interface of digitalized technological appa- 

The second chase and exchange of swordplay is even more spectacular. 
Again, holding on to the Green Destiny, Zhang Ziyi literally flies in a long take 
from behind houses onto the water of a lake, the action of which is clearly mod- 
eled on a famous ching-gong move called “dragonfly pointing on water” to be 
followed by Chow Yun-Fat doing the same. Then the chase cuts to a beautiful 
forest of luxurious green foliage and bamboos. The graceful movements— of 
churning over, embracing the trees, standing on the tip of the shaft, balancing, 
and swinging in perfect accord with the mechanics of bending branches bur- 
dened by their weight — are cut to a zoom-in on the faces of the pair, moving 
and gazing, short of breath but retaining their serenity. Sword moves are then 
exchanged, all the while in harmony with the natural forces borrowed from 
swinging movements of shafts and bamboo sticks, making up a milieu of inter- 
relationships of living things and their environments. Here, Bogue’s “biology 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

of melodic living forms” manifests itself. Body movements, the sword, and 
forest merge into each other with the interconnectedness expounded by the 
Chinese concept (also in kung fu) of shi (tendency). Shun shi seems an everyday 
life concept but, like many other concepts, has its roots in Taoist teachings. In 
fact, many passages in Chuang Tzu deal with this shi (which 1 translate as “mov- 
ing structure”) in the myriad forms of life and things in nature, pointing to 
non-linear life-tendencies particularly in terms of the relational ontology of 
forces and their differential rhythms of intensity. This sequence of kung fu in 
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon certainly is a showcase of what digital com- 
position can do to visually realize such a concept in the Chinese aesthetics of 
bodily movement, particularly how it relates to the biophilosophy of Taoism 

In The Matrix, fantastic human action is disciplined by machines, and we 
have a full circle of feedback loop in the projection/reciprocation evolution of 
human/machine interface, where the classical technology of enhancing bodily 
capabilities is used in modern high-tech programs for the purpose of resisting 
a more powerful virtual world, demonstrating clearly that reciprocations by 
rule always exceed their earlier projections. With Crouching Tiger, Hidden 
Dragon, not even a suspension of disbelief is required by audiences because 
digital composition and the kung fu discourse (fictional rendering of flying 
swordsmen) reinforce each other, rendering a poetic performance of beautiful 
human action possible by having it seamlessly merged with its background 
environment in an interplay of intensity, the two fighters supported and 
bounced back (as by the springing up and bending down of bamboo shafts) 
while swinging their swords. 

Having noted the Taoist concept of shi (tendency) in kung fu discourse, 
I turn to one of the most salient features in kung fu performance on screen, 
the “rhythm of pause/burst/pause” as observed by David Bordwell.'*'’ These 
“instants of stillness” or “moments of pure stasis” (Bordwell 222, 224) are related 
to the Peking opera. Hang hsiang (form-showing) tradition, but also go way 
back to at least the Taoist biophilosophy of the mutuality and reinforcement 
of stillness/movement in all lives. The concept of “dong jing xiang sheng” 
(movement-stillness mutuality) has figured in poetry, painting, calligraphy, 
and martial arts, arguing that stillness is the ultimate source of all energies. 
This is amply demonstrated by tai-chi, which emphasizes circular movements 
beyond specific moves of one-move-one-form and maximizes energy flow by 
not confronting force with force, but by borrowing the opponent’s power in 
the shun shi manner I described. Bordwell’s observation of pauses between 
speedy bursting of attacks relates to the kung fu idea of gathering up your shi 
at a point of bursting, as in the phrases “action in ferment” or “folding in on 
itself.” Shi is a common word that can be combined with various words to make 
compound nouns such as form/structure {xingshi) tendencies {qu shi), denoting 
a double-bind situation of a stillness/movement dialectic. The idea is that 

11. Intercultural and Interface (Yuen) 


crouched in things which are supposed to be still, dynamic forces of intensity 
are to burst out at a point of utmost disequilibrium. One only looks at the term 
mountain-move-structure [shun shi) to understand this concept, mountains 
being very still from the naked eye, but, like volcanoes, full of intense energy 
from within. Here we recall the common practice in kung fu disciplining that 
novices must learn to set their horse-like form {za ma) in perfect stillness like 
a mountain before other lessons can begin. 

Bordwell’s pauses in Wuxia Pian and the Chinese concept of shi or ten- 
dencies, as noted, can be traced back to Chuang Tzu’s idea that all lives are the 
result of the intensive transformation under the sky and on earth. The word 
wei refers to snake-like turns and whirls, describing the self-opening of the 
Lathe of Heaven when all lives are at an emergent point within an intensity of 
differentiation before their forms are individualized. Here Chuang Tzu presents 
a tacit but intensive process of changes in quality among life-forms, their envi- 
ronment, weather, vapors, and light within a structure of mutual affordance. 
This natural tendency toward affordance is exactly what is meant by embodied 
capacity as expounded by De Landa when he says, based on the Deleuzian 
geophilosophy, that “a biological population may exhibit attractors (and thus 
be defined in part by the tendencies with which these singularities endow it) 
but in addiction its members will typically display —complex capacities for 
interaction” (De Landa 62). When Lao Tzu in Tao-te Ching talks of two animals 
Yu and Yiu (later the two become a compound noun for hesitation) as they are 
seen, one as “Cautious, like crossing a frozen stream in the winter” and the 
other “at a loss, like one fearing danger on all sides, he grants a primitive 
authority for kung fu practitioners who develop action programs modeled on 
the careful and attentive pause-and-action by animals. One recalls here that 
including Bruce Lee’s actions, we see many zoom-ins onto the screen of grinding 
and moving feet, inch by inch sometimes, at the point of the emergent attack 
or defense. It is as if the fighters’ bodies were in an infolding of a pressing mul- 
titude of incipiencies, right at a critical point between a germinal state and 
selecting a form of movement. The point is that the significance of these patterns 
of pause-burst-pause does not stop at martial arts aesthetics in films, but 
extends far towards a kind of biophilosophy of affordance of all lives— which 
may partly explain why martial artists are fond of modeling their moves on 
animals, or rather, using Deleuze’s term, why they are prone to becoming-ani- 

The non-representability of bodily movement is based in the Taoist phi- 
losophy as manifested, say, in Tai-chi chuen or Tai-chi-jian where passage pre- 
cedes position, where isolated moves must be abandoned for seamless circling 
of non-moves which include a multiplicity of singular moves when needed. 
Such a refusal to succumb to successive points or instants of spatialized time 
restores our direct access to the very-evoluting, folding and unfolding temporal 
flow, tai-chi being movement with circle overlapping circle, one being squeezed 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

away by another, which in turn is swallowed up by yet another. Such a proces- 
sual (immanent, productive, and energetic), such sheer vibrance, is certainly 
a positing of “the simultaneity of a series of incompassible presents”^^ and trans- 
formed into a kung fu film, particularly those with science fiction elements, it 
becomes a duration or event where an ancient technology of embodying the 
vitality of force is juxtaposed with a modern technology of narrating this move- 
ment in film. The “dizziness” of swirling around in continuum (mostly felt by 
the opponent of someone who performs tai-chi) issues forth the interval, the 
irrational cuts as a new type of narrating technique which deals directly with 
creating a fable through the power to falsify or to fabulate (Lambert 90-113). 
Here we recall Jin Yong’s powerful description in Heaven Sword and Dragon 
Saber (1978) where the Grand Master Taoist Chang first demonstrates in front 
of everybody, enemies included, a round of his recently created tai chi Jien 
(sword) for Chang Wu-chi to use immediately. Having attentively learned the 
moves by heart, and having digested the moves as lines after lines of volition 
and velocity, young Chang reports that he has only one move left in his mind. 
The Master — pleased by the youth’s quick achievement, but also convinced 
that the Tai-chi machine is still not perfectly “abstract enough” in him — begins 
another set, this time totally different from the first. Chang then walks around 
in the hall, going through in him the whole pattern of moves, and finally 
announces that not one single move is left, now perfectly ready for his eventual 
triumph over the enemy. 1 wish to juxtapose this tai-chi concept with what 
Deleuze says in Dijference and Repetition that repetition is “by nature trans- 
gression or exception, always revealing a singularity opposed to the particulars 
subsumed under laws” (Deleuze 1994 5). What the master does the second time 
is no mere mechanical repetition but a Deleuzian process of “signaling.” Such 
signaling is a dynamic rhythm process, a repetition of “an internal difference 
which it incorporates in each of its moments” (Deleuze 1994 20). As for Chang, 
what he will do during actual fights will be difference or changes in itself, always 
armed with a plurality of positions and modulatory moves that go beyond any 
representation. Every move he makes in the future will be one among “free 
variations”^'* and will focus on the “plus” within a structure of one-plus-one- 
plus-one, this plus becoming the outside of any relational process of an event. 

1 therefore suggest, following our presentation of circles after circles of 
movement in tai chi where affects and percepts reign rather than feelings and 
perceptions, that intercultural studies is a further development of cultural stud- 
ies per se, the former now categorized as assuming the action of “shiftings” 
between paradigms as the primary force which prioritizes passages over posi- 
tions, relationalities within processual continuity over their terms, and move- 
ment or temporality over molar territorializations of any kind. Barbara M. 
Kennedy, advocating a neo-aesthetic of material affect for cinema viewing 
beyond representation, psychoanalysis, and subjectivity, particularly with a 
view of constructing a becoming-woman paradigm for post-feminism, notes 

11. Intercultural and Interface (Yuen) 


that “a complex set of intersecting forces” is of paramount importance in cin- 
ema, since “we can feel intense and ecstatic resonances in an array of dimensions 
of experience, specifically through dance, colour, tactility, movement and the 
rhythmical. That Kennedy says something relevant to us in tai chi is obvious 
enough, since kung fu can well be considered as dance, not to mention that 
both Kennedy and my discussion involve the technology of action cinema. 
Kennedy’s neo-aesthetics can readily be incorporated into the abstract machine 
of tai chi since both are concerned with material movement in a fluid and com- 
plex set of machinic collusions and interconnectedness. 

Finally Brian Massumi argues that the problem with dominant models in 
cultural theory is that they are “not abstract enough to grasp the real incorpo- 
reality of the concrete,” and that “cultural studies has missed its processual 
boat because it has not had the audacity to sweep far enough in either direction”; 
it “misses surplus giving relation and the qualitative excess of ongoing trans- 
formations,” and finally, cultural studies “generally — particularly misses 
change: hence the obsession with change that has haunted (it) from the begin- 
ning” (Massumi 5, 253). Overall, that externality of relations not only causes 
changes in these relations, but also ignites forces which loop back through the 
conjunction AND to change their earlier terms. Such a valorizing of affection 
of transitions of all kinds in a flux of forces and intensities, 1 venture to suggest, 
will become the major problematics for intercultural studies in the 21st cen- 


1. Pnina Werbner, “Introduction: the Dialectics of Cultural Hybridity,” Debating Cul- 
tural Hybridity: Multi-Cultural Identities and the Politics of Anti-Racism, ed. Werbner 
and Tariq Modood (London and New fersey: Zed Books, 1997), 5. 

2. Robert Bemasconi, ‘“Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again’: Inter- 
culturalism and the Conversations of Races,” Theorizing Multiculturalism: A Guide to 
the Current Debate, ed. Cynthia Willett (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), 283. Subsequent page 
references in the text are to this edition. 

3. There are too many examples to note here. Heinz-Otto Peitgen and Peter H. 
Richter’s The Beauty of Fractals: Images of Complex Dynamical Systems (Berlin and New 
York: Springer- Verlag, 1986) and John D. Barrow’s The Artful Universe (Oxford: Claren- 
don Press, 1995) are important ones. These books explore the close ties between our 
aesthetic appreciation and the basic nature of the universe, between human creativity 
and scientific studies on living organisms as natural properties of our world; they also 
provide a model of how humanities and technoscience can be approached, and how the 
essentials for life can be studies as vital determinants of our cultural, psychological, 
philosophical and religious responses to the cosmos. As for the word “genome,” the 1993 
edition of Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “a historically new entity engendered by the 
productive crisis of nature and culture.” 

4. Donna Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium. FemaleMan(c)_Meets_ 
OncoMouse(tm): Feminism and Technoscience (New York and London: Routledge, 1997), 
149. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

5. Anthony King, Global Cities (London: Routledge, 1990), 38. 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

6. Arjun Appadurai, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” 
Public Culture, 2:2 (1990), 7. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

7. Michel de Certeau, “Walking in the City,” The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Simon 
During (London: Routledge, 1993), 160. 

8. Edward Soja, Thirdspace (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1996), 130. 

9. Aihwa Ong, “On the Edge of Empires: Flexible Citizenship among Chinese in 
Diaspora,” Positions, 1 (Winter, 1993), 755. 

10. Jurgen Habermas, “A Review of Gadamer’s Truth and Method,” Hermeneutics and 
Modern Philosophy, ed. Brice R. Wachtehauser (Albany: New York State University Press, 
1986), 250. 

1 1. Hans-Georg Gadamer, The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays, ed. Bemas- 
coni (New York and London: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 388. 

12. John D. Caputo, More Radical Hermeneutics: On Not Knowing Who We Are 
(Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2000), 42, 59. 

13. Mark Hansen, Embodying Technesis: Technology Beyond Writing (Ann Arbor: Uni- 
versity of Michigan Press, 2000), 213. 

14. Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics, 16:1 (1986), 22-21 . 

15. Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, 1991, trans. Catherine Porter (Cam- 
bridge: Harvard University Press, 1993). The actor-network issue is further elaborated 
in Latour ’s later book Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences Into Democracy. 

16. Edward Soja, Thirdspace (Cambridge: Harvard University press, 2004), 73-87. 

17. While I cannot do justice to Deleuze’s concept of virtuality, I would draw upon 
Pierre Levy’s words in Becoming Virtual: Reality in the Digital Age, trans. Robert Bononno 
(New York: Plenum Trade, 1998), to sum up the general understanding of this concept: 

Never before have the technological, economic, and social changes around us occurred 
so rapidly or been so destabilizing. Virtualization itself represents the essence, the cutting 
edge of the mutation taking place. As such virtualization is neither good nor bad, nor 
even neutral, but manifests itself as the very process of humanity’s “becoming other” — 
its heterogenesis ... virtualization involves a change of identity, a transition from a par- 
ticular solution to a general problematic, the transformation of a specific and 
circumscribed activity into a delocalized, desynchronized, and collectivized function- 
ing.... Through the creation of planes of consistency, heterogeneous, molecular becom- 
ings are put into continuity in new ways that go beyond any existing plane of 
organization and touch upon the infinite movements of what Deleuze and Guattari call 
virtual reality. (16, 44, 190) 

18. See J. MacGregor Wise, Exploring Technology and Social Space (London and New 
Delhi: Sage, 1997), 31. 

19. See Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human 
Intelligence (New York: Viking, 1999). 

20. Keith Ansell Pearson, “Viroid Life: On Machines, Technics and Evolution,” 
Deleuze and Philosophy: The Difference Engineer, ed. Pearson (London: Routledge, 1997), 

21. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizo- 
phrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (London: The Athlone Press, 1988), 69. Subsequent 
Deleuze and Guattari page references in the text are to this edition. 

22. Foucault, “The Subject and Power,” Michel Eoucault: Beyond Structuralism and 
Hermeneutics, ed. Hubert Dryfus and Paul Rabinow, Second Edition (Chicago: Univer- 
sity of Chicago Press 1983), 213. 

23. N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, 
Literature, and Informatics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 286. Subsequent 
Hayles page references in the text are to this edition. 

24. Andrew Feenberg, Questioning Technology (London: Routledge, 1999), 80. 

11. Intercultural and Interface (Yuen) 


25. Thomas C. Shevory, Body/Politics: Studies in Reproductions, Productions, and 
(Re)Construction (London: Praeger, 2000), 43. 

26. Manuel De Landa, “Deleuze, Diagrams, and the Open-Ended Becoming of the 
World,” Becomings: Explorations in Time, Memory, and Futures, ed. Elizabeth Grosz 
(Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1999), 41. Subsequent De Landa references 
in the text are to this edition. 

27. Ian Buchanan, “Deleuze and Cultural Studies,” A Deleuzian Century?, ed. 
Buchanan (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1999), 105. Subsequent 
Buchanan page references in the text are to this edition. 

28. Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (London: Athlone, 1994), 
278. Subsequent “Deleuze 1994” references in the text are to this edition. In Empiricism 
and Subjectivity: An Essay on Plume’s Theory of Pluman Nature, trans. Constantin V. 
Boundas (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), Deleuze points out that “ideas 
do not account for the nature of the operations that we perform on them” (101). 

29. Deleuze’s thesis in Difference and Repetition is that Western metaphysical thought 
recognizes difference only with a presupposition of sameness; it is “fatally ensnared in 
a fourfold structure of representational thinking which reduces difference to its relation 
with identity and thus fails to grasp difference in its radical authenticity” (Oliver Davies, 
“Thinking Difference: A Comparative Study of Gilles Deleuze, Plotinus and Meister 
Eckhard,” Deleuze and Religion, ed. Mary Bryden [London: Routledge, 2001], 76). 

30. Deleuze, Negotiations: 1972-1990, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1995), 45. 

31. For a careful analysis of quantum physics as it relates to Deleuze’s philosophy of 
becomings and virtualities, see Timothy S. Murphy’s “Quantum Ontology: A Virtual 
Mechanics of Becoming,” Deleuze and Guattari: New Mappings in Politics, Philosophy, 
and Culture, ed. Eleanor Kaufman and Kevin Jon Heller (Minneapolis: University of 
Minnesota, 1998), 211-229. 

32. John Mullarkey, “Deleuze and Materialism: One or Several Matters?,” A Deleuzian 
Century?, 69. 

33. Alistair Welchman, “Machinic Thinking,” Deleuze and Philosophy, 211-229. 

34. John Marks, Gilles Deleuze: Vitalism and Multiplicity (London: Pluto, 1998), 86. 
Subsequent Marks page references in the text are to this edition. 

35. Grosz, “Deleuze’s Bergson: Duration, the Virtual and a Politics of the Future,” 
Deleuze and Feminist Theory, ed. Buchanan and Claire Colebrook (Edinburgh: Edin- 
burgh University Press, 2000), 228. 

36. Pearson, “Pure Reserve : Deleuze, Philosophy, and Immanence,” Deleuze and Reli- 
gion, 142. 

37. Daniel W. Smith, “The Doctrine of Univocity: Deleuze’s Ontology of Imma- 
nence,” Deleuze and Religion, 179. Subsequent Smith page references in the text are to 
this edition. 

38. Ronald Bogue, “Art and Territory,” A Deleuzian Century?, 93. 

39. See Timothy V. Kaufman-Osborn, Creatures of Prometheus: Gender and the Politics 
of Technology (New York: Rowman 8t Littlefield, 1997. 

40. See Burton Watson’s English version of The Complete Works ofChuang Tzu, Chap- 
ter Nineteen, “Mastering Life,” (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), 198-200. 

41. See A Thousand Plateaus, 410-411; on 4l5, Deleuze and Guattari also note: “This 
hybrid metallurgist, a weapon- and toolmaker, communicates with the sedentaries and 
with the nomads at the same time.... In effect, the machinic phylum or the metallic line 
passes through all of the assemblages: nothing is more deterritorialized than matter- 
movement.” In What is Philosophy? (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 
Deleuze and Guattari suggest that “Even when they are nonliving, or rather inorganic, 
things have a lived experience because they are perceptions and affections” (154). 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

42. Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara 
Habberjam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 55, 51. 

43. Hero [Ying Xiong] (Beijing New Picture Film Co., 2002). 

44. Thomas Lamarre, “Diagram, Inscription, Sensation,” A Shock to Thought: Expres- 
sion After Deleuze and Guattari, ed. Massumi (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 
151. Subsequent Lamarre page references in the text are to this edition. 

45. What Lamarre says in an end-note in his essay on Dean and Massumi’s book 
First and Last Emperors (1992) is interesting, and relevant to the thematic structure (or 
ideology) in Hero, where Emperor Qin’s relation to striated and smooth lines is brought 
forward. Lamarre records that the book provides “a useful model for thinking about the 
ways in which the first dynasty of the Qin emperor attempted to reconcile antagonisms 
between smooth and striated space by evoking modes of warfare, exchange, and social 
hierarchy which accelerated and blurred the two tendencies (like the spokes of a wheel) 
within a state that could only implode and explode. This dynamics of imperial formation 
and dispersion informs subsequent dynasties, courts, commandaries, albeit in a muted 
tempered form” (Lamarre 168). For Deleuze and Guattari’s smooth and striated space, 
see A Thousand Plateaus, 474-550. 

46. The Matrix (Warner Brothers, 1999). 

47. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 2001), 139. 

48. Andrew Schroeder, “All Roads Lead to Hong Kong: Martial Arts, Digital Effects 
and the Labour of Empire in Contemporary Action Film,” E-Journal on Hong Kong Cul- 
tural and Social Studies, No. 1 (2002), at 
htm?mid=2&smid=l&ssmid=7 . 

49. David Bordwell, Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment 
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 222. Later Bordwell page references in 
the text are to this edition. 

50. Lao Tzu, The Way of Lao Tzu (Tao-te Ching), trans. Chan Wing-Tsit (New Jersey: 
Prentice Hall, 1963), 126. 

51. De Landa notes, “An individual organism will typically exhibit a variety of capa- 
bilities to form assemblages with other individuals, organic or inorganic. A good example 
is the assemblage which a walking animal forms with a piece of solid ground (which 
supplies it with a surface to walk) and with a gravitational field (which endows it with 
a given weight) . Although the capacity to form an assemblage depends in part on the 
emergent properties of the interacting individuals (animal, ground, field) it is never- 
theless not reducible to them. We may have exhaustive knowledge about an individual’s 
properties and yet, not having observed it in interaction with other individuals, know 
nothing about its capacities” {Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy [London: Con- 
tinuum, 2002], 63). 

52. Gregg Lambert, The Non-Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze (New York: Gontinuum, 
2002), 90. Subsequent Lambert page references in the text are to this edition. 

53. Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber [Yi Tian Tu Long Ji] (Shaw Brothers, 1978). 

54. Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Durham and Lon- 
don: Duke University Press, 2002), 71. Subsequent Massumi page references in the text 
are to this edition. 

55. Barbara M. Kennedy, Deleuze and Cinema: The Aesthetics of Sensation (Edinburgh: 
Edinburgh University Press, 2000), 29, 43. 


Post-Genre Cinemas and 
Post-Colonial Attitude 

Hong Kong Meets Paris 

Veronique Flambard-Weisbart 

At the eve of the 21st century, the new global order has affected all national 
cinemas, and it is common to find various aspects of one culture playing a part 
in the meaning and visual economy of another. In Palimpsestes, Gerard Genette 
studied the relationships between one text and another, whether explicit or 
secret, and called this transtextuality. Within transtextual relationships, Genette 
defined hypertextuality as “any relationship uniting a text B ( [...] the hypertext) 
to an earlier text A ([...] the hypotext), upon which it is grafted in a manner 
that is not of commentary [...] text B not speaking of text A at all but being 
unable to exist, as such, without A, from which it originates through a process 
[...] call[ed] transformation, and which it consequently evokes more or less 
perceptibly without necessarily speaking of it or citing it.”' 

Esther C. M. Yau outlines further transtextual relationships in At Full 
Speed: Hong Kong Cinema in a Borderless World. She distinguishes “piracy” from 
“experimental syncretism.” On the one end. 

Piracy, which rides on the mainstream global economy and its expansive cultural 
property rights, is certainly disruptive of the assertion of identity)....] Movies that 
borrow, recycle, and remake existing materials, conventions, idioms, styles, and even 
images have increased in number)....] The extreme pressures of time under which 
movies are made )...] frequently leads to pilfering of popular ideas (or lesser-known 
ones) in the industry, turning the nationalist claims— captured by such phrases as 
“reflecting upon one’s culture” and “the integrity of national cinema” — into empty 
rhetoric. Piracy calls attention to the short life of commodity production and con- 
sumption that results from global overproduction.^ 

Not far from this context, in the 1990s, Hollywood coined the term “interna- 
tional film” to describe the concept of 



Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

films produced outside of the United States. But there is a subtle meaning to the 
term that prevents it from simply being applied to all non-American films. In general, 
international films have a certain association with Independent films. Commenting 
on issues of culture and society through such tropes as love, art, and violence, the 
international film — more than a “foreign film”— struggles to present an insightful 
look at how cultures interact with each other, or at how different cultures’ perceived 
realities can cause problems in communication.’ 

The concept of “international film”— like “Independent film” before it — 
has been a direct outcome of Hollywood’s established hegemony on the global 
market, and would have not otherwise existed. It is an alluring concept meant 
to simulate Hollywood’s contending with the global diversity of cinemas, but 
the reality has been disappointing. “International film” has mostly succeeded 
at promoting Hollywood’s “commentary” on national cinemas— commenting 
the hypotext — rather than “reflecting upon one’s culture,” or fostering “the 
integrity of national cinema” — generating the hypertext. Hollywood has also 
used the concept of “international film” as a savvy camouflage for discarding 
to the periphery the “foreign films” that do not sell as well on the global mar- 

“Experimental syncretism,” on the other end, is reminiscent of Genette’s 
definition of hypertextuality. Speaking on Hong Kong cinema, Yau argues: 

With experimental syncretism, citation and irreverent remaking of cultural materials, 
mixed locations, and cross-cultural collaborations, these films proffer a space-time 
in which Hong Kong appears in many versions. In these culturally androgynous 
worlds, “Hong Kong” is an unstable symbolic construct making affiliations, both 
conventional and unexpected, with the many signs and stories circulating in mass- 
mediated cultures [12]. 

In this postmodern era, transtextuality indeed takes on various identities. 
In the context of economic globalization, it assumes the form of “piracy” or 
“international film,” and it tends to confuse the hypotext with a generic identity. 
In the context of the periphery, transtextuality appears in the shape of “exper- 
imental syncretism” or “foreign film” and continuously decolonizes the hypo- 
text, which continuously shifts to the flexible identity of the hypertext. 

In this chapter, I focus on the transtextual relationships between recent 
French and Hong Kong cinemas, in the peripheral context described above, 
examining recent Hong Kong cinema as the disconnected hypertext of French 
NewWave film and recent French cinema as the unexpected hypertext of Hong 
Kong Wuxia Pian (swordplay film). Specifically, recalling some concepts and 
precepts of French New Wave cinema, I explain how the films of Hong Kong 
director Wong Kar-Wai created the hypertext of this stalled movement; then, 
looking at the spectacular effects characteristic of Hong Kong Wuxia Pian, I 
demonstrate how the films of French director Christophe Cans have invented 
the hypertext of this weakened Hong Kong genre. 

Back in 1950s France, a cluster of film critics started the cinema review 
Les Cahiers du Cinema. Involved were Andre Bazin, Francois Truffaut, Jean- 

12. Post-Genre Cinemas (Flambard-Weisbart) 


Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, and Eric Rohmer, among others. Together, these 
critics elaborated, theoretically and politically, a film theory and criticism that 
defined the French New Wave. They spoke of a “certain tendency” for French 
cinema, which they expressed in la politique des auteurs. Seeking “the French 
attitude,” authorship was a simple concept most of them essentially agreed 
upon: “the film auteur was to be considered as fully an artist as many of the 
great novelists, painters or poets.”'* 

Linked to the concept of authorship came the notion of mise-en-scene, or 
directing: the technique employed by an auteur to express things in a particular 
way, his/her style. This made the author/director relationship similar to that of 
the author/artist or author/writer. Directing was a true act of writing; no more 
distinction existed between director and author. Works by the director/author 
were evaluated critically, not so much in terms of the themes he/she dealt with, 
but in terms of his/her style, the medium to his/her particular world-view. The 
impact of Cahiers du Cinema for the French New Wave was tremendous. 

Flowever, if these critics changed the course of French cinema, it was not 
so much through their criticism as by making films themselves. They outlined 
different elements that would help express “the French attitude” in their own 
films (Hillier 21-22). They pointed to screenwriters/adapters— for whom the 
director was only the person who added the picture to the scenario — as a main 
obstacle towards the good quality of filmmaking. Authors/directors in the New 
Wave accused screenwriters/ adapters of being literary men lacking in authen- 
ticity. In moral terms, the content of their works was misanthropic, pessimistic, 
and non-conformist, which made them guilty of cheap audacity. They would 
compensate for their lack of optimism, generosity, and ambiguity with scholarly 
framings, complicated lighting effects, and polished photography, taking away 
any remnant of authenticity and realism. To their cheap audacity, authors/direc- 
tors of the French NewWave opposed the audacity of “mise-en-scene.” Amer- 
ican critic John Hess argued, 

the most important determinant of an auteur was not so much the director’s ability 
to express his personality, as usually has been claimed, but rather his desire and 
ability to express a certain world-view. An auteur was a film director who expressed 
an optimistic image of human potentialities within an utterly corrupted society. By 
reaching out emotionally and spiritually to other human beings and/or to God, one 
could transcend the isolation imposed on one by a corrupt world [cited by Hillier 
6 ]. 

Thus, directors/authors such as Godard, Truffaut, Resnais, Rohmer and 
Agnes Varda among others jump-cut their way to an elliptical, spontaneous 
filmmaking that was both more realistic and more exuberantly stylized than 
what had existed before. These critics turned authors/directors did not bluntly 
reject their predecessors, but rather implicitly built on the filmmaking of the 
precursors of their movement. Inspired by certain American directors who had 
left their personal stamp on films despite the rigid constraints of the studio 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

system, and by French precursors such as Jean-Pierre Melville and his poetic 
gangsters, Jacques Tati and the celebration of eccentricity in a regimented world, 
and Robert Bresson and luminous realism, NewWave directors questioned cin- 
ema’s own form of expression and explored the relationship between conscious- 
ness and expression of meaning and activity. They set out explicitly intending 
to explore the relationships between director and film, reality and fiction, artist 
and model. They developed new methods of filmmaking such as location shoot- 
ing and improvisation. Rejecting cinematic formulae and the studio-bound 
approach of 1950s mainstream cinema. New Wave directors assumed a casual 
approach to cinematic conventions— editing in a freer style and implementing 
looser construction of scenarios. 

When Godard declared that cinema and language are inextricably bound 
in a dance of intertextuality and pastiche, he subsumed the new aesthetic land- 
scape created by French New Wave directors. In the year 1959 alone, Godard’s 
Breathless — which took the genre of the witty chase thriller and obliterated 
it — Truffaut’s The 400 Blows — which launched the extraordinary semiautobi- 
ographical series of the “Antoine Doinel” films— and Resnais’ Hiroshima, My 
Love — which mastered a poetic evocation of love and passionate plea for world 
peace — created models for the decades of truly personal cinema to follow, and 
opened new doors to filmmaking as a whole. 

The funkiness, freakiness, irony, and self-conscious stylization of New 
Wave directors was emulated and found new hypertexts in the works of new 
generations of French directors throughout the 1980s — in Maurice Pialat’s sex- 
ual tangling and quarreling epics, Bertrand Blier’s witty, bizarre, fairy tales, 
and Jean-Jacques Beineix’s style in itself. Unfortunately, by the end of the 1980s, 
the French New Wave found it increasingly difficult to regenerate, and was 
heading into overly self-reflective and intimist films. The future of the once 
liberating and boundary-breaking French NewWave cinema movement seemed 
to meet a dead end. If not for the emergence of films by directors outside of 
France, like those by Wong Kar-Wai, the French New Wave might have lost its 
legendary ability to generate hypertexts, at least on the home front. 

Born in 1958 in Shangai, Wong combines stunning visuals and edgy, sen- 
sitive storytelling, which have spread a new dawn across the horizon of Hong 
Kong film. Originally a graphic design student, Wong fell in love with photog- 
raphy and was influenced by such names as Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bres- 
son, and Richard Avedon. After briefly working as a production assistant for 
television drama serials, he progressed to scriptwriting, notably for a popular 
soap opera/ thriller, then left TV for filmmaking. 

When seeing Wong’s recent films— like Chungking Express (1994), Fallen 
Angels (1995), Happy Together (which garnered him the 1997 best director award 
at the Cannes Festival), In the Mood for Love (2001), Six Days (2002), 2046 
(2004), and There’s Only One Sun (2007) — French audiences brought up on 
French New Wave cinema cannot help but experience the feeling of ambivalence 

12. Post-Genre Cinemas (Flambard-Weisbart) 


that comes with being both in the foreign cultural context of Hong Kong and 
in the familiar aesthetic context of Godard’s films. In an interview with Mon 
Cine Club, where he introduced the screening of Chungking Express, director 
Christophe Cans said: 

What is amusing when watching Chungking Express is that you realize that THIS is 
the movie that all Godard’s fans and followers have dreamt to make but somehow 
never did. So it’s quite strange to realize that in Hong Kong, they manage to make 
films that we should be doing in France. In this respect, you can say that they [...] 
have in Hong Kong the New Wave that we were unable to keep in France.^ 

In Chungking Express, Wong focuses on a theme recurrent in much of his 
work: urban alienation. He paints Hong Kong as a claustrophobic cage in which 
people pace like trapped animals. People in the film have such dissolute and 
pointless lives that they cannot connect emotionally with others. Wong’s 
unflinching vision lends his work a bleak, nervy atmosphere of unfulfilled long- 
ing, loneliness, desperation, and even nostalgia. 

The film has a dual structure in its substance and form. It is composed of 
two stories that are independent from one another, yet both tell about love. 
There are two sketches, two cops, two Mays, two wigs, two air hostesses, two 
couples splitting up, two painful break ups.... But despite all differences, the 
two stories are similar, and include other themes found in most Wong films: 
rejection and treason. Although Wong has a personal interpretation of these 
themes, the Godard fan will recognize themes dear to the French director. 
Indeed, from his first film on, Godard worked at setting the tone for his views 
on love, rejection and treason — usually by women (e.g. the betrayal of Patricia 
in Breathless, of Camille in Contempt, etc). Furthermore, Godard’s stylistic use 
of the jump-cut, the ten-minute tracking shot, and fractured time sequences, 
a French New Wave patented look, has been emulated and reinvented by Wong’s 
incisive and de-glamorizing camera in Chungking Express. More than these 
similarities of themes and style, however, it is the dexterity, with which Wong 
forces the viewers to stop, look, and listen as their own culture is critiqued, 
which makes French audiences feel right at home. Godard’s sometimes ironic, 
sometimes reverential, dialogue with pop culture, which set the mood for the 
French New Wave movement, has found a match in Wong’s personal blend of 
“trendiness” and modernity. Still digressing on Chungking Express, Cans argues 

it is a “post-genre” moviej....] It’s apparently an action movie with cops, vamps, vil- 
lains, smugglers and guns. But actually nothing really happens. These people aren’t 
involved in criminal activities, they just wander around. That’s the main idea. It’s 
sort of an existential chaos where people, who are supposed to draw their gun, fight, 
and have very tough relationships, are simply hanging around! (HKCinemagic; my 

American critic Roger Ebert further stated that “the films of Wong Kar- 
Wai capture moods and modes rather than leading to complacent resolutions 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

or contrived forms of closure.”'* In Wong’s postmodern narrative, Godard’s 
ideals of montage and mise-en-scene seem to be gone. We are far from the self- 
reflective end of Breathless with the stylized death of Poiccard, which symbolized 
Godard’s artistic conflict at turning his creation over to public opinion and los- 
ing creative control over it. Wong replaces these ideals with celebration of the 
disconnected fragment, which the director does not hesitate or fear to turn 
over “as is” to the public. In Chungking Express, any attempt to garner a message 
or impose an interpretative structure on the two stories will be frustrated. In 
other words, audiences are forced to accept the ride without expecting a desti- 
nation. Part of the answer for this disconnectedness may lay in the shifting 
political sands that have been a symptom of the widespread postmodern project 
of decolonization and its sister project, economic globalization. Wong’s dis- 
concerting representation of colonial Hong Kong suggests the impossibility of 
tidy denouements. 

In recent Hong Kong cinema, Yau sees a juxtaposition of “divergent cul- 
tural materials [which] create crossovers between certain forms and mediums 
that were previously separate” and “fragments of popular culture [which] are 
eclectically displayed even when the films are intensely focused on local situa- 
tions” (11). Gans’ perception of Chungking Express is closely akin to Yau’s eval- 
uation: “What Wong Kar Wai actually does is that he mixes the characters all 
together and sees what happens. This makes an absolutely free-wheeled uncon- 
ventional cinema, which represents exactly what you have in Hong Kong, not 
only with Wong Kar Wai, but also with John Woo or others. It’s a real mix of 
styles [...] it’s a movie with a totally free editing, directing, and everything gets 
mixed up in the process. And it’s incredibly beautiful” (HKCinemagic). Hence, 
it is not coincidental that Gans’ own filmmaking is ruled by such various jux- 

Born in 1960, Gans was an early convert to film fandom. As a teenager, 
the future director published a fanzine. Rhesus Zero, to share his passion for 
horror, sci-fi, wuxia, kung fu and other genre films with others. Gans eventually 
attended the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinematopraphiques (IDHEC) to explore 
his passion not just for film but filmmaking. In the 1980s, Gans noticed that his 
fellow French filmmakers were hesitant to explore the genres he found inter- 
esting. Falling back on his experience in fanzine publishing, Gans founded 
Starfix, a magazine devoted to the types of films he thought deserved coverage. 
Gans also served as consultant at Scherzo Video, helping supervise the release 
of some favorite Asian films to the French market, including Japanese films and 
the films of Chang Cheh, King Hu, John Woo, and Wong Kar-Wai among others. 
His own filmmaking — represented by such films as Necronomicon (1993), Cry- 
ing Ereeman (1996), Brotherhood of the Wb// (2001) (which granted Gans imme- 
diate international success), and Silent Hill (2006) — draws heavily on the genres 
of Asian film masters, classic and contemporary. 

Directors of the French New Wave were revolutionary in that they created 

12. Post-Genre Cinemas (Flambard-Weisbart) 


a new genre. Unlike these French directors, however, Cans does not transform 
existing genres, but rather challenges the viewers’ perception of them. In the 
1980s, he strongly defended genres that were despised by a certain close-minded 
French intelligentsia, the same group that was driving French New Wave cinema 
into a dead end. Cans was however vindicated in the year 2000 with the stun- 
ning global success of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, dedicated to 
the old genre of Chinese wuxia pian, one of Cans’ favorites. With Brotherhood 
of the Wolf, Cans had a chance to pay personal tribute to the genre, simultane- 
ously renewing with a lost value in French cinema: Entertainment. 

Brotherhood of the Wolf is loosely based on a historical incident in 1765 
France (The Beast of Gevaudan). Several critics quickly pinpointed the enter- 
tainment value of the film, saying that it was “a cross-cultural hoot that no one 
should take too seriously,” or that it was 

one of the most unique action films in years. Imagine a Merchant Ivory film, as 
directed by John Woo, and featuring Jet Li, and you have some idea of what’s in 
store. Don’t let the subtitles throw you off— this is pure entertainment. Anybody 
confusing this for an art film just because they speak French is the same kind of 
poseur who championed Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita for the same reason, forget- 
ting that it was just your basic action flick with a female lead. Grab the popcorn and 
the bladder-buster sized soda, lean back and enjoy.^ 

Beyond its entertaining and sophisticated formality, Brotherhood of the 
Wolf is literally made of multiple implicit or explicit references to the films that 
Cans passionately loved and supported. However, the film, far more than a 
clumsy patchwork of uncreative and easy tributes, feels remarkably fluid. The 
extreme coherence of the film is due to Cans limiting his references to the single 
genre of wuxia pian. 

The wuxia pian, or film of martial chivalry, is rooted in a mythical China 
but has always reinvented itself for each age. The genre has been reworked to 
keep in touch with audiences’ changing tastes and to take advantage of new 
filmmaking technology. Yet at the center it retains common themes and visceral 
appeals. Rather than simply adapting the genre, however. Cans transforms it. 
Specifically, with Brotherhood of the Wolf, Cans generated the hypertext of Chang 
Cheh’s The New One-Armed Swordman (1971) — Chang quickly built a reputa- 
tion for his sadomasochistic swordplay dramas, emblematized in his The One- 
Armed Swordsman (1967) andiVew One-Armed Swordsman (1971). During the 
1960s and 1970s, many wuxia pian built plots around the sheer variety of Chi- 
nese arms. Chang’s New One-Armed Swordsman, for instance, gave the villain 
a two-jointed staff, the secondary protagonist a pair of heavy butterfly swords, 
and the main protagonist a single light broadsword, so combat was not only 
among fighters but among weapons and techniques. In Brotherhood of the Wolf, 
the villain, whose identity is unknown at first, fights with a multiple-jointed 
staff; the secondary protagonist, Mani the Mohawk warrior, with a hatchet; 
and the main protagonist, Fronsac the renowned scientist, with a pair of short 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

swords. Firearms are also used by the villain and Fronsac, but Mani dismisses 
them as “too noisy.” The parallel between the two films does not stop short of 
the themes— two swordsmen, Fronsac and Mani, rise together against evil; it 
is nested in the narrative structure of the scenario. However, Cans never tries 
to steal scenes from Chang’s film and reproduce them; rather he transforms 
each scene into a clever amalgam influenced by all his favorite films. For Ken- 
neth Turan, Brotherhood of the Wolf 

is the cinematic equivalent of fusion cuisine. It’s not only that this French-language 
film has an editor and a stunt coordinator from Hong Kong, a cinematographer from 
Denmark and a star from Hawaii, it’s that its very sensibility is an unapologetic 
melange of French, Asian and American cinema in ways that amuse and lead to indi- 

What is left beyond this fusion is Cans’ secret desire to express the sensi- 
bility of genre cinema, even if it requires resorting to underestimated means, 
such as video games, strip cartoons, and special effects. In fact. Brotherhood of 
the Wolf does not only draw its influence from films such as Tsui Mark’s The 
Blade, but also from videogames such as SoulCalibur, and Japanese mangas. 
Speaking on Hong Kong recent cinema, Yau argues that 

The linking of multinational advertising styles, classical ghost stories, heroic mythol- 
ogy, action stunts, the wuxia genre, and computer graphics exemplify a creative 
move that disturbs the notion of homogeneous, linear modern time, even though 
the finished commodity may be said to resonate with the cultural logic of late cap- 
italism [11]. 

The accuracy of Yau’s analysis also applies to Cans’ film. In the end, however. 
Brotherhood of the Wolf is a living paradox, unique yet ambiguous in that it is 
continuously displaced from one genre’s sensibility to another, from one hyper- 
text to the next. 

In conclusion, in an era where Hollywood dictates the rules of the global 
market, films are short-lived market commodities. However, foreign film sur- 
vives and regenerates in the periphery, and this in itself is quite refreshing. 
Ironically, from the periphery, foreign film also manages to play the rules of 
the market with great dexterity yet simultaneously falls short of becoming a 
market commodity. I believe this happens because while Hollywood always 
projects ahead of the global market, searching for its next blockbuster, foreign 
film calmly renews its vows to humankind. Indeed, the modernity of foreign 
film paradoxically depends upon its relationship to tradition, which it also tran- 
scends— by this 1 mean that there can be no hypertext without a hypotext. Fur- 
thermore, it is its relationship to tradition which makes foreign film remain 
local — rather than national — because it is based on universal human values 
that transcend the immediacy of the market. Indeed, by transcending the poli- 
tique des auteurs of the French New Wave and inventing the hypertext of 
Godard’s films, Wong Kar-Wai has left his mark on late Hong Kong cinema. It 
is also by transcending ownership of his films, and creating the hypertext of 

12. Post-Genre Cinemas (Flambard-Weisbart) 


the many Asian films he admires, that Christophe Cans has influenced the 
rebirth of a French entertainment cinema. In the end, humankind is the only 
genre, and the only attitude, that never grows old. 


1. Gerard Genette, Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree, trans. Channa Newman 
and Claude Doubinsky (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 5. 

2. Esther C. M. Yau, “Introduction: Hong Kong Cinema in a Borderless World,” Af 
Full Speed: Hong Kong Cinema in a Borderless World, ed. Yau (Minneapolis and London: 
University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 9. Subsequent page references in the text are to 
this edition. 

3. “International Film,” Art & Culture Network, at 
categories/210-international-film. Accessed February 23, 2010. 

4. Jim Hillier, “Introduction,” Cahiers du Cinema. The 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, 
New Wave (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 6. Subsequent Hillier page ref- 
erences in the text are to this edition. 

5. Christopher Cans, cited in “Chungking Express,” HKCinematic website, at http://; my translation. Accessed February 23, 
2010. Taken from an interview published in Mon Cine Club in 1996. Subsequent Cans 
references in the text are to this source. 

6. Roger Ebert, “Chungking Express” (March 15, 1996), Movie Reviews, at http:// 
Accessed February 23, 2010. 

7. Kenneth Turan, “A Pack of Cinematic Styles,” Los Angeles Times (Friday, January 
11, 2002), at http://articles.latimes.eom/2002/jan/ll/entertainment/et-turanll. Accessed 
February 23, 2010. Subsequent references in the text are to this source. 


Writing, Weaving, 
and Technology 

Amy Kit-sze Chan 

This chapter will address the issues of technology, gender, and language, 
particularly writing. Technology and language are the two characteristics that 
define human beings, according to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.' One sim- 
ilarity shared by technology and language is that both are assemblages, the for- 
mer “a machinic assemblage,” the latter “an assemblage of enunciation” 
(Deleuze and Guattari 504). To borrow Timothy V. Kaufman-Osborn’s 
metaphor (bear in mind that for Kaufman-Osborn, a metaphor is an artifact 
of language and always more than a metaphor) of a spider web, both technology 
and language are entangled and entwined in a web relating them to the human 
world, a reality that cannot be “disconnected from the stubborn world of arti- 
sanal things.”^ 

To say only that gender plays a role in technology and language obviously 
fails to accord gender its due importance in the spider web of technology. Recall 
that technology and humans share a “projection and reciprocation” relationship, 
and that gender “is one of the more enduring creatures generated by the dialectic 
of projection and reciprocation” (Kaufman-Osborn 67). At the beginning of 
his book, Kaufman-Osborn claims, “[mjatters of technology and gender are 
never unrelated in experience, and any argument that presupposes their isola- 
bility is sure to grasp the political import of neither” (1). Discussing cyborg 
politics, Donna Haraway postulates that “Writing is pre-eminently the tech- 
nology of cyborgs, etched surfaces of the late twentieth century. Cyborg politics 
is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication, 
against the one code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of 

So, I wish to entwine and ensnare language (writing), technology and 
weaving altogether to weave a larger (spider?) web, hoping to present my argu- 
ments clearly amidst these entanglements. 


13. Writing, Weaving, and Technology (Chan) 


Gender and Technology 

When we discuss the relationship between gender and technology, this is 
the usual question: is technology gendered or does technology gender human 
beings? I argue that both are true historically. Consider a common definition 
of technology: “A. The application of science, especially to industrial or com- 
mercial objectives. B. The scientific method and material used to achieve a com- 
mercial or industrial objective.”'* Again, what is considered a tool and what is 
not? Why is a hammer a tool while a needle or frying pan is not? Is it because 
needlework or cooking at home is not included in the category of “industrial 
or commercial objectives”? What counts and doesn’t count as technology has a 
gendered dimension. Kaufman-Osborn claims “female gender identity and the 
artisanal artifacts constitutive of that identity are devalued in common” (68). 

Technology as a concept has been gendered since the beginning. However, 
the gendered dimension of technology does not reside in the female or the arti- 
fact but in the relationship between them. For example, the automobile as arti- 
sanal artifact is not gendered, but given the relationship between automobiles 
and females (realizing that this relationship is also embedded within a logic of 
projection and reciprocation), there is no doubt that the automobile is a male 
technology.^ On the other hand, there are a few tools or technologies considered 
to be female. A case in point is the typewriter. American printer Christopher 
Latham Sholes developed the first typewriter in 1874. At first, the machine was 
gender neutral, but by the 1880s women were the primary typists since their 
pay was much lower than men’s. Since then, the typewriter has been considered 
as female gendered. Another example is the computer. In the 1940s, 76 young 
female mathematicians were employed by the University of Pennsylvania’s 
Moore School of Engineering as “computers,” responsible for making calcula- 
tions for tables of firing and bombing trajectories as part of the World War II 
effort. Kay McNulty Mauchly Antonelli recalls computing in 1946: 

We did have desk calculators at that time, mechanical and driven with electric 
motors, that could do simple arithmetic. You’d do a multiplication and when the 
answer appeared, you had to write it down to reenter it into the machine to do the 
next calculation. We were preparing a firing table for each gun, with maybe 1,800 
simple trajectories. To hand-compute just one of these trajectories took 30 or 40 
hours of sitting at a desk with paper and a calculator. As you can imagine, they were 
soon running out of young women to do the calculations. Actually, my title working 
for the ballistics project was “computer.” The idea was that I not only did arithmetic 
but also made the decision on what to do next. ENIAC made me, one of the first 
“computers,” obsolete.*’ 

Even today, more female workers are employed as data entry keyboarders 
and computer operators while they only constitute a small portion of electrical 
and electronic engineers and computer systems analysts and scientists. This 
illustrates that not only is technology gendered, but there exists a hierarchy in 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

classifying different technologies, in which low-tech ones are female and high- 
tech ones are male. 

Of all technologies in human civilization, there is only one technology 
that males admit was invented by females— that of weaving. According to Sig- 
mund Freud, women have no ability or desire to change the world, lacking log- 
ical and rational thinking skills and will power; therefore, they made few 
contributions to the inventions and discoveries of the history of civilization. 
The only invention credited to women is the weaving loom. However, Freud 
attributes this to women’s castration complex. Instead of celebrating women’s 
achievement, Freud concocts a tale based on his theory of absence, castration 
fear, deficiency, and negativity.^ 

The earliest loom apparently appeared in ancient China. Archaeologists 
discovered a stone-made spinning wheel built in the New Stone Age (about 
4,700 years ago). In a picture of the spinning wheel produced in the Eastern 
Han Dynasty (24-188 a.d.), the weaver is a woman, sitting on the floor and 
operating the spinning wheel with her hands. 

If we trace the roots of words like technical, technique, technics, and tech- 
nician, we observe the deep-rooted and embedded relationship between tech- 
nology and weaving. The ancient Greek tekhne, meaning art and craft, is derived 
from the Indo-European root teks, which carries the meaning of “to fabricate,” 
“to weave,” or the “web, net, warp of a fabric.” Thus, technology cannot be iso- 
lated but is enwrapped in a web. Suffice it to say that given the close relationship 
between technology and weaving, weaving and the female, we may discover 
more connections between technology and the female gender. 

Language and Gender 

To recapitulate, Haraway contends that writing has a special significance 
for marginalized groups, women of color and cyborgs included. Cyborg politics 
is about the struggle for language and cyborg writing is about the power to sur- 
vive (175-176). A feminist like Helene Cixous “sees in women’s writing the 
potential to circumvent and reformulate existing structures through the inclu- 
sion of other experience.” Moreover, 

Cixous suggests that a feminine writing will bring into existence alternative forms of 
relation, perception and expression. It is in this sense that Cixous believes writing is 
revolutionary. Not only can writing exceed the binary logic that informs our present 
system and thus create the framework for a new “language” and culture, but she stresses, 
through its transformations, feminine writing will initiate changes in the social and 
political sphere to challenge the very foundation of the patriarchal and capitalist state.® 

While Cixous is most often associated with ecriture feminine. Luce Irigaray 
is identified with parler-femme. In “When Our Lips Speak Together,” Irigaray 

13. Writing, Weaving, and Technology (Chan) 


If we keep on speaking the same language together, we’re going to reproduce the 
same history. Begin the same old stories all over again.... If we keep on speaking 
sameness, if we speak to each other as men have been doing for centuries, as we have 
been taught to speak, we’ll miss each other, fail ourselves.... we’ll be spoken machines, 
speaking machines.’ 

Irigaray takes a very radical standpoint in this issue, believing that women have 
been caught in a world structured by phallogocentrism, so they must create a 
language of their own, with a totally different syntax and another grammar to 
represent themselves, to express their feeling, their experience, and their bodies 
(Irigaray 1977 143). Naming females’ different body experiences will enable 
them to transform the patriarchal structure. Thus, language is seen as “an essen- 
tial tool of production for [women’s] liberation” and allows them “to have sub- 
jective rights equivalent to men, to be able to exchange language and objects 
with them.”'" 

In response to Irigaray and Cixous, some feminists are actually attempting 
to create a different kind of syntax and grammar. Consider Monique Wittig’s 
novel The Lesbian Body: 

I discover that your skin can be lifted layer by layer, I pull it lifts off, it coils above 
your knees, I pull starting at the labia, it slides the length of the belly, fine to extreme 
transparency, I pull starting at the loins, the skin uncovers the round muscles and 
trapezii of the back, it peels off up to the nape of the neck, I arrive under your hair, 
m/y fingers traverse its thickness, I touch your skull, I grasp it with all m/y fingers, 
I press it....“ 

The statement runs on and on for a page, separated only by commas; the fluidity 
and flow of words leave readers breathless. The Lesbian Body is an experiment 
with language and literary form which aims to challenge the rational, scientific, 
objective, hierarchical phallocentrism. 

Before continuing this discussion, 1 will tell a story about a little girl called 
Kamari who lived in a tribe. One day, she picked up an injured falcon and 
took it to the mundumugu— the witch doctor — hoping he could save it with 
his magic. In exchange, she promised the mundumugu that she would do all 
the chores for him for one month. She saw there were many books in the mundu- 
mugus hut and begged him to teach her how to read. However, the mundumugu 
refused on the grounds that a woman’s duty is “to till the fields and pound the 
grain and make the fires and weave the fabrics and bear her husband’s 
children.”'^ Women were not supposed to read lest they learned about “other 
ways of thinking and living” and grew “discontented” with their lives (64). 
Kamari, though unhappy with his words, kept her promise and cleaned up 
his hut everyday. One day, the mundumugu discovered that Kamari was using 
his computer and ordered the computer not to converse with the girl “verbally 
or in any known language” (70). Still, he found that the computer was com- 
municating with the girl in a very strange language. The computer told the 
mundumugu that Kamari made up the language herself. It was simple, but 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

coherent and logical and understood by the computer. The mundumugu 
went further this time and forbid Kamari from even activating the computer. 
Several days after, Kamari hanged herself in her hut, leaving a couplet as her 
last words: 

I know why the caged birds die — 

For, like them, I have touched the sky [ 77 ]. 

Kaufman-Osborn in Creatures of Prometheus contends that when a woman 
commands a male technology, she becomes an embodiment of gender trouble. 
That is: when a woman acquires an artisanal artifact that makes men men, she 
upends he regime of patriarchy. Like the girl in the science fiction story “For I 
Have Touched the Sky” by Mike Resnick, any female who acquires language 
must be warned: either they speak as male subject or as asexualized other. Once 
they transgress this boundary and dare to appropriate language for their own 
use or even create their own language, they must be penalized. 

Female Writing 

Though French feminists, like Cixous and Irigaray, argue that women 
should have their own language or writing to express the plurality and mutuality 
of feminine difference, there is still no such kind of ecriture feminine or par- 
ler-femme proper. In fact, the phallocratic order which creates language and is 
in turn sustained by language presents a difficult problem for Irigaray and other 
feminists. When Irigaray undertook the challenge of rereading philosophical 
texts, she realized that “if she were to follow the traditional rules of conventional 
language, she would foreclose the possibility of transforming the cultural imag- 
inary.”'^ Thus one cannot conceive of the feminine in the structures established 
by conventional language. 

Recently, however, we have discovered a female dialect used in Jiang Yong 
County, Hunan Province, which provides a clue as to how to solve the problems 
facing feminists. This discovery, made in 1980s, shocked the world and surprised 
feminists because so far it is the first and only attempt made by females to create 
a language of their own. It is believed that this dialect has been employed by 
women in Jiang Yong for at least a thousand years.''' There are different theories 
concerning how this writing system originated, but it is generally accepted that 
it was first created in the Sung Dynasty. 

Women in Jiang Yong called this writing system “female writing,” as 
opposed to the Han Chinese writing system which was “male writing.” To trace 
the origin of female writing, we must understand that even women living in 
villages nowadays may not be literate, not to mention women back in the Sung 
Dynasty, because only men may enjoy the privilege of formal education. Being 
illiterate in Han writing, women devised their own form of writing and passed 

13. Writing, Weaving, and Technology (Chan) 


it on to daughters and granddaughters so women could communicate among 
themselves and write their own literary works. 

First, we will explore the contents of texts in female writing, which fall 
into six areas'^: 

1. Religious rites: women write down their prayers and wishes on a paper fold- 
ing fan and bring it to the temple for burning. 

2. Entertainment: women have picnics together and read or sing their own 
writings, including folk songs, biographies, and letters. 

3. Communication: Women in Jiang Yong have a culture of forming sworn 
sisterhoods with good friends (some have up to six sworn sisters, and the age 
differences between sisters can vary wildly), and they usually communicate 
with each other by letters. 

4. Biography: Elderly women ask someone who is good at female writing to 
record their lives. The books are usually laments about their hardships in mar- 
ried life. Some even complain about the feudal system, arranged marriages, 
and foot-binding customs. These books are usually burned at the woman’s cre- 
mation so that she can continue reading it in another world. That explains why 
no book of female writing before the Qing Dynasty has been recovered, making 
it difficult for researchers to gather materials. 

5. Records of “herstory”; for example, a piece of writing records what hap- 
pened to women in Jiang Yong during the Taiping JTeavenJy Kingdom (1853- 
1864) and there is another article about the period of the Sino-Japanese War 

6. Rewritings of narrative poems: women choose poems which have women 
as protagonists and translate them into female writing. However, after reading 
their version of the legend about the Butterfly Lovers, 1 find the translation 
itself is more a rewriting. The female version places more emphasis on Zhu 
Ying-tai and has description of her female body which is omitted in the Han 
version. Consider a few lines of the story: 

Ying-tai washed her face at the dressing table. She took a piece of soap and cleaned 
her chest. A pair of breasts as white as snow was shown. Ying-tai told Liang Shan- 
bai that, “The one who is blessed has large breasts and one who is unlucky has no 
breasts. A man with large breasts will become a high official and a woman with large 
breasts will be lonely in her life.” She was able to convince Shan-bai at that moment 
with these words. “ 

Thus, the record of “herstory” or rewriting of a legend is not only a translation 
of male writing into female writing; rather, the emphasis in female writing 
usually falls on the emotional, affectional, and lived experiences of the women 
instead of recording the facts. In this sense, female writing probably fulfills the 
criterion that the French feminists established for female language— “a new 
language derived from a different perception, experience and desire.”'^ 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

Though linguists have shown that this female writing system is a variation 
of Han character writing and thus a dialect, not a language, the style of this 
writing system looks very different from the Han characters. Han characters 
are made mostly of vertical and horizontal lines, and every character looks like 
a square. On the other hand, female writing characters are made up of dots, 
curves and slanting lines tilting to the left, and instead of forming squares, 
characters are rhombus-shaped. 

Another interesting finding about female writing is that it does not resem- 
ble any writing systems in Chinese history, including Han writing systems and 
all writings by minority groups. One theory concerning the creation of female 
writing traces its origin back to prehistoric inscriptions on pottery, which would 
explain why it was not influenced by any writing systems in Chinese history.'* 
However, without archaeological findings, it is hard to convince people that 
female writing existed for thousands of years, even before the appearance of 
inscriptions on tortoise shells or bones. 

Another explanation concerning the creation of this writing relates it to 
weaving, claiming that women in the past always gathered and did weaving 
and embroidery together. Due to hardships in their married lives, they wanted 
to record their experiences and sufferings. However, since they were illiterate, 
they embroidered some symbols on the cloth, as marks or records, which grad- 
ually developed into a writing system. If we examine their embroidery, we see 
that the patterns do resemble female writing. 

Female writing is usually practiced by women of a minority group 
called Yao in Hunan Province. The Yaos are famous for their weaving and 
embroidery. Even today, the spinning wheels they use are quite primitive and 
not much different from the ones depicted in the pictures from the Western 
Han dynasty. 

Both the spinning wheel and weaving loom have an intimate relationship 
with women’s bodies. As mentioned, Freud attributes women’s contribution to 
weaving technology to their castration complex, but that is not my view. Spin- 
ning, especially handspinning practiced by women in the old days, is the craft 
of creating yarn from fiber by using a spinning wheel treadled by foot or hand; 
it is more or less similar to the weaving loom, also operated by the weaver’s 
hands and feet. The rhythm of the weaver’s body synchronizes with the move- 
ment of the pedal or lever of the spinning wheel or weaving loom. 

That reminds me of the spider web. Here is a story about the spider: 

Like Penelope, the spider is skilled in forms of artifice practiced after dark. Within 
her abdomen, each night she generates liquid silk. Squeezed from minute spinnerets, 
this sticky fluid congeals into so many elastic cords, and from these she fashions a 
web. Legs coated with oils teased from glands inside her mouth, she alone can dance 
without care atop this resilient wheel. When an unhappy victim is snared by its 
catching threads, all struggles to break free produce still more of a tangle. The vibra- 
tions provoked by this commotion, scurrying along radial threads from hub to mar- 
gin, tell the orb’s maker what is afoot [Kaufman-Osborn 9]. 

13. Writing, Weaving, and Technology (Chan) 


The spider is a weaver herself (no wonder the spider in the story is female). Of 
course, the spinster/yarn relationship is not totally comparable to the spider/spi- 
der web relationship since the liquid silk comes from the spider; however, the 
interweaving of the rhythms of the spinster/weaver’s body and the spinning 
wheel/weaving loom does propound the dualistic representation of the rela- 
tionship between the creator and the created, the tool-user and the tool. I sug- 
gest that the spinning wheel and yarn are continuous with the spinster and so 
confuses the Cartesian paradigm of use. 

So, what about the female writing that may have originated from weaving? 
Cixous and Clement point out that female body is a direct source of female 
writing and in The Newly Born Woman, they argue that “woman is body more 
than man is.” They add that “ [m] ore body hence more writing” (95) . For Cixous 
and Clement, women must speak with their bodies and of their bodies: 

A feminine text cannot not be more than subversive : if it writes itself it is in volcanic 
heaving of the old “real” property crust. In ceaseless displacement. She must write 
herself because, when the time comes for her liberation, it is the invention of a new, 
insurgent writing that will allow her to put the breaks and indispensable changes 
into effect in her history.... To write — the act that will “realize” the un-censored 
relationship of woman to her sexuality, to her woman-being giving her back access 
to her own forces; that will return her goods, her pleasures, her organs, her vast 
bodily territories kept under seal.... Write yourself: your body must make itself heard 

Female writing is an abstract but incorporeal embodiment of women’s percep- 
tion, affection, lived experience, and desire. It is women’s strategy to undermine 
the symbolic order, to bring changes to the world order. If language is what 
made men men, then female writing probably renders women what women 
should be. 

She Stammers 

In Chinese history, there is a long tradition of calligraphy in which many 
different kinds of styles have evolved. On one hand, some are regular and of 
uniform size, like standard script {kai shu), semi-cursive script {hsingshu), and 
seal script {zhuan shu)-, on the other hand, some are running and flowing, like 
cursive script {cao shu). While not qualihed to discuss styles of calligraphy, 1 
want to note that while there are running and flowing scripts in male writing, 
female writing always maintains a regular and uniform style. 

Strictly speaking, there is no calligraphy for female writing.'^ It remains a 
mystery how female writing could have isolated itself for almost a thousand 
years from the influence of the calligraphy of male writing. I argue that the 
women who practiced female writing were determined to insulate it and retained 
its hard and stiff style. After all, a hard and stiff style is also a writing style. 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

Thomas Lamarre argues that traditional calligraphic theory revolves 
around two notions: “First, writing shows the composition of things. Second, 
writing presents movements: it shows the movements of the heart/mind (and 
thus human character), and it shows the movements of the natural world (and 
thus the operations of things). He suggests that the brush, a manual machine, 
acts as “a kind of seismograph, feeling the oscillations and vibrations of the 
world and of the heart” (166), and through signing these on paper, silk, or bam- 
boo splints, aligns movements of the heart and movements in the natural world. 

The characters of female writing are rhombus-shaped, regular and stiff. 
Each character is separated from the others and never flows freely into another 
character. While the calligraphy of male writing can be floating and hovering 
on the paper, female writing is stumbling, staggering, stuttering. A woman 
stammers even when she speaks in her own tongue. When discussing female 
discourse, Irigaray comments: 

she cannot specify exactly what she wants. Words begin to fail her. She senses some- 
thing remains to he said that resists all speech, that can at best be stammered out. 
All the words are weak, worn out, unfit to translate anything sensibly. For it is no 
longer a matter of longing for some determinable attribute, some mode of essence, 
some face of presence. What is expected is neither a this nor a that, not a here any 
more than a there. No being, no places are designated. So the best plan is to abstain 
from all discourse, to keep quiet, or else utter only a sound so inarticulate that it 
barely forms a song.^' 

In his article “He Stuttered,” Deleuze suggests that the writer causes language 
to stutter in the language system (langue). No matter how much we like to think 
the language system is in equilibrium, it is actually in perpetual disequilibrium, 
continuously bifurcating and causing language itself to vibrate and stutter. This 
is the only way to make progress, the only way to introduce desire into language. 
One way to do it is to minorize language — “invent a minor use for the major lan- 
guage within which they express themselves completely.” He continues, “He is a 
foreigner in his own language: he does not mix another language with his, he 
shapes and sculpts a foreign language that does not preexist within his own lan- 
guage.... The point is to make language itself cry, to make it stutter, mumble, or 
whisper.” By virtue of this minorization, writers give birth to a foreign language 
within language; writers place language in an endless state of disequilibrium and 
cause it to bifurcate into lines of flight. Stuttering is then turned on its head to 
be viewed as the “poetic or linguistic strength par excellence. 

In this way, the “calligraphy” of female writing represents women s stam- 
mering when they speak with their lips, in their own language. It is as if women 
must hesitate between every character, ponder over what to say next or how to 
express their desires. As noted, female writing is more a dialect in the Chinese 
language system than a separate language. As such, it can be seen as a minoriza- 
tion of the Han language, creating not only a new syntax but also a new sign 

13. Writing, Weaving, and Technology (Chan) 


Smoothing Space 

Female writings are usually written on paper fans, silk handkerchiefs, and 
notebooks bound by threads and black cloth or silk with embroidery. Techno- 
logically, a fabric has certain characteristics allowing us to categorize it as a 
striated space. First, it is constituted by two parallel elements, the warp yarn 
and woof yarn intersecting perpendicularly. Second, one element is fixed and 
the other passes above and beneath the fixed one. Third, there is a top and a 
bottom in a yarn though the nature, number, and density of the yarns remain 
the same. These characteristics qualify a fabric as a striated space which is 
defined by hierarchy, rule-intensive order, and control. 

In contrast to fabric, paper is a smooth space. Most Chinese calligraphers 
and painters made their marks on the highest quality paper, Xuan paper. This 
paper gained its name because it can only be produced in the town of Xuan in 
Anhui Province. The main materials for making Xuan paper is vegetal fibers 
of green sandalwood, which grows profusely in Xuan. Fibers teased from barks 
of green sandalwood trees and mulberry trees are washed and swollen by water 
repeatedly, then lime is added in and cooked with the fibers and washed and 
pulped again. The resulted pulp is placed on the ground of the valley for a year 
for drying. Today, the paper is still made by hand. The result is a smooth surface 
which differs from other types of paper in all aspects: smoothness, absorption 
of ink, density, tension, and brightness. Tough and resilient but soft, it can last 
for over a thousand years. 

The material to write or paint on is inseparable from the work of art itself 
because the sensation of a work of art refers to the percepts and affects of the 
material itself. Deleuze and Guattari claim, “it is difficult to say where in fact 
the material ends and sensation begins.” They then ask, “How could the sen- 
sation be preserved without a material capable of lasting?”^^ However, the sen- 
sation is not the same thing as material. It is realized in the material with its 
passing completely into the percept or affect. All materials then become expres- 

Writing a letter in female writing on a paper does not express the same 
sensation as one written on a silk handkerchief, especially if the handkerchief 
is woven and embroidered by the writer herself. The absorbedness of the fabric 
also differs greatly from paper. Furthermore, if the letter is embroidered on a 
handkerchief, the percepts and affects of the letter will be different than one 
written with ink. 

Making the signs of female writing on a fabric is an act of smoothing a 
striated space. The fabric, constituted by perpendicular and parallel yarns, is 
an ordered, controlled, and closed space. Writing on this space inevitably dis- 
rupts its hierarchical order. Female writing usually runs vertically, from right 
to left, and hence cuts across the woof yarn of the fabric. On the other hand, 
the paper, made by the pulp of vegetal fibers and water, is a smooth space. With 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

some low quality paper, the surface is so rough that vegetal fibers can even be 
seen. The calligraphy of male writing on paper, no matter if horizontal or ver- 
tical, or always from right to left, is intended to provide an order for this chaotic, 
smooth space. Smoothing of space is always associated with feminine space. 
Feminine space, by definition a structure for what does not yet exist, is consti- 
tuted by continuous movement, lines of flight, deterritorialization and reter- 
ritorialization. In short, it is always a becoming. 

It is perhaps not coincidental that writing is associated with “becoming- 
woman.” Deleuze and Guattari put forward the view that “writing should pro- 
duce a becoming-woman as atoms of womanhood capable of crossing and 
impregnating an entire social field, and of contaminating men, of sweeping 
them up in that becoming” (276). Writing emits soft and small but hard and 
obstinate particles, molecular instead of molar particles. In order not to cease 
to become, writing must be an abstract line, or line of flight; it must “be — 
between, to pass between, the intermezzo” (277). The molecular particles enter 
the proximity of women; thus all writers are become-women. Writing space is 
feminine space. 


To conclude, 1 will provide some threads of the web in which language, 
writing, weaving, gender, and technology are entangled. They weave into an 
ever-increasing web and thus are one thread (remember the spider web!). 
Regardless of where 1 start and where 1 end, we are always in the middle of the 

Thread 1: Gender and Technology 

• As mentioned, technology and humans share a “projection and recip- 
rocation relationship.” The former suggests that the materialization of 
bodies that matter is a sedimentation process— involving other organic 
and non-organic life forms and never without shape or history, thus 
denying the pretensions of the subject’s metaphysical presence. The latter 
suggests that the human is as much creature as creator, as artifacts act 
back upon their creators and so remake them. 

• Gender is an assemblage generated by the dialectic of projection and 
reciprocation, itself an artifact that is “called into being by and within 
the relations between artisanal artifacts and persons, artisanal artifacts 
and other artifacts, persons and other person” (Kaufman-Osborn 67). 
Take the example of the gun and the male gender. Man’s infatuation 
with guns is not induced by a singular, linear and ahistorical cause. The 
power to affect and to be affected does not run unidirectionally from 
creator to gun. The gun is not the same when in a man’s hand; on the 

13. Writing, Weaving, and Technology (Chan) 


other hand, a man also does not remain the same man when he has a 
gun in his hand. 

• Haraway’s cyborg clearly shows that gender is nothing natural. The dual- 
ism of male and female is arbitrary and is due to be deconstructed in 

• Evoking the life of Ada Lovelace and her close relationship to the creation 
of modern computers, we recall that the female gender is not that remote 
from technology. 

Thread 2: Weaving and Technology 

• The Jacquard loom was developed in 1804 by a Frenchman, Joseph-Marie 
Jacquard, who was influenced by the weaving loom invented in China 
several hundred years before. The punch-card system, which controlled 
the weaving of the cloth so that any intricate woven patterns, such as 
tapestry, brocade, and damask, could be produced automatically, was 
adopted by Charles Babbage as an input-output medium for the Ana- 
lytical Engine. Though Babbage’s Engine was never built, punch cards 
were widely used to store data in binary form until the invention of 
recording media based on electromagnetic and electro-optic technologies 
in the 1960s. 

• In an article for Info World. Com, Ethernet inventor and Internet pioneer 
Bob Metcalfe raises the idea of computational fabrics. Computer devices 
are built by chips and circuit boards nowadays, but the possibility of 
replacing these rigid laminates by woven high-tech fibers, filaments, 
threads and yarns, using textile technologies to weave computers and 
nanocomputers, is being seriously considered.^'* 

Thread 3: Weaving and Gender 

• One interesting observation: all spinsters (which also means single, 
unmarried women) are females and in all mythologies, the technology 
of spinning and weaving is created by a goddess, for example, Arachne 
in Greek mythology, Chih Nu in Chinese mythology, and Neit in Egypt- 
ian mythology. 

• Weaving used to be women’s only contribution to the economy. In the 
ancient age of many civilizations, men went hunting and farming and 
women stayed home raising children and weaving cloth. The men then 
took the cloth to the market to exchange for food. 

Thread 4: Weaving and Female Writing 

• The characters of female writing are possibly derived from the weaving 
patterns of the Yao group. The patterns are actually the Yao women’s 
symbols for recording and communicating with each other. 

• There is a special significance for women to write female writing on cloth 
and silk handkerchiefs. 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

Thread 5: Gender and Language 

• According to Lacan, women are excluded from language as they only 
exist in language as the other — as what men are not. So, when a woman 
speaks, she speaks in man’s voice. 

• According to Deleuze and Guattari, language is one of two characteristics 
that made human beings, the other being technology. 

• Therefore, a woman is not a human being. 

Thread 6: Language and Technology 

• The word “tech” means “art” or “craft.” 

• The word “logos” means “word” and “speech.” 

• “Tech” plus “logos,” then, means a discourse on the arts, both fine and 

• It seems intrinsic that technology cannot be isolated from language. 1 
mentioned that language and technology are both assemblages, the for- 
mer “a machinic assemblage” and the latter “an assemblage of enunci- 
ation” (Deleuze and Guattari 504). As an assemblage, the machine 
assembles the elements extracted from social and cultural contexts and 
produces something entirely new. The product can then react back upon 
and affect its conditions of production, becoming a component of further 
machines. “ 

Thread 7: Female Writing and Smooth Space 

• Female writing can be an inspiration for feminists who advocate a new 
language for females. 

• Female writing on cloth and silk handkerchiefs is an act of smoothing a 
striated space, thus creating a feminine space. 

• The smooth space places emphasis on the line passing between things, 
between points, but not the line subordinated to the point. 

• The matrix, which also means womb, is an example of smooth space — 
no order, no limit, no hierarchy, no control; it is rhizomatic and multi- 

• Hypertext is composed of nodes and links, propagating in a matrix of 
breaks, jumps, and implied or contingent connections which are enacted 
by viewers. Reading a hypertext is an occasion, a becoming. 

• If hypertext flourishes in the matrix, in virtual space, the non-space, 
does it mean that a female language can also find its place in this space? 


1. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizo- 
phrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 
1987), 60. Subsequent Deleuze and Guattari parenthetical page references in the text are 
to this edition. 

2. Timothy V. Kaufman-Osborn, Creatures of Prometheus: Gender and the Politics of 

13. Writing, Weaving, and Technology (Chan) 


Technology (Lanhan and Boulder: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1997), 112. 
Subsequent Kaufman-Osborn parenthetical page references in the text are to this edi- 

3. Donna J. Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Fem- 
inism in the Late Twentieth Century,” Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention 
of Nature, by Haraway (London and New York: Routledge, 1991), 176. Subsequent Har- 
away parenthetical page references in the text are to this edition. 

4. “Technology,” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth 
Edition [CD-ROM] (Boston: Houghton, 2000). 

5. In the 1970s, car advertisements portrayed women as either hopeless incompetents 
or sex objects to appeal to male customers. Literally, car makers didn’t sell cars to women 
then, since only 29 percent of women held a driving license, compared with 69 percent 
of men. Only now, in the twenty-first century, has car advertising become politically 
sensitive — a change that occurred because the percentage of female drivers in America 
grew from 44% in 1972 to 49% in 1996. Moreover, over 80% of vehicle purchases are 
influenced by women. (See “Women Call the Shots on Buying and Maintaining the Fam- 
ily Car,” [no author given] VMR Auto Guides, at 
women_buy.htm [accessed March 13, 2010]). 

6. “Kay McNulty Mauchly Antonelli,” Past Notable Women of Computing, at 

7. For a thorough discussion of the rise of modern computers, the role of Ada 
Lovelace in computer technology, and its close relationship with weaving technology, 
see my “When Cyberfeminism Meets Chinese Philosophy: Computer, Weaving and 
Women,” World Weavers: Globalization, Science Fiction, and the Cybernetic Revolution, 
ed. Wong Kin Yuen, Gary Westfahl and Amy Kit-sze Chan (Hong Kong: Hong Kong 
University Press, 2005), 215-232. 

8. Sandra M. Gilbert, “Introduction: A Tarentella of Theory,” The Newly Born 
Woman: Helene Cixous and Catherine Clement, by Helene Cixous and Catherine Cle- 
ment, trans. Betsy Wing (London: I. B. Tauris Publishers, 1996), xxix. Subsequent Cixous 
and Clement parenthetical page references in the text are to this edition. 

9. Luce Irigaray, “When Our Lips Speak Together,” This Sex Which Is Not One, by 
Irigaray, trans. Catherine Porter (Ithaca and New York: Cornell University Press, 1977), 
205. Subsequent 1977 Irigaray parenthetical page references in the text are to this edi- 

10. Irigaray, Je, Tu, Nous: Towards a Culture of Difference, trans. Alison Martin (Lon- 
don and New York: Routledge, 1993), 72. 

11. Monique Wittig, The Lesbian Body, trans. David Le Vay (Boston: Beacon Press, 
1973), 17. 

12. This is taken from Mike Resnick’s short story, “For I Have Touched the Sky,” Best 
New SF 4, ed. Gardner Dozois (London: Robinson Publishing, 1990), 63. Subsequent 
parenthetical page references in the text are to this edition. 

13. Tasmin Lorraine, Irigaray and Deleuze: Experiments in Visceral Philosophy (Ithaca 
and London: Cornell University Press, 1999), 43. 

14. There are many different theories concerning the origin of female writing; thus 
we cannot determine how long it has existed. The most commonly accepted theory is 
that it was created in the Sung Dynasty, but some scholars more recently suggested that 
it is at least 3000 years old. 

15. For details and more information about female writing, see Gong Zhebing and 
Zhao Timing’s Nu Shu: Shijie Wei Yi de Nuxing Wenji [Womens Writing: The World’s 
Only Eemale Writing] (Taipei, Taiwan: Fu Nu Xin Zhi Ji Jin Hui, 1992). 

16. The original was written by Gao Yinxian and Yi Nianhua in Nu Shu and translated 
into Chinese by Gong Zhebing in Gong Zhebing and Zhao Timing’s Nu Shu: Shijie Wei 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

Yi deNuxing Wenji [Women’s Writing: The World’s Only Female Writing] (Taipei, Taiwan: 
Fu Nu Xin Zhi Ji Jin Hui, 1992). The English translation is mine. 

17. Suan Sellers, Language and Sexual Difference: Feminist Writing in France (London: 
Macmillan, 1991), 96. 

18. For a detailed discussion on female writing and inscriptions on pottery, see Li 
Jinglin’s Nu Shu Yu Shi Gian Tao Wen Yan fiu, [A Study of The Female Writing and Pre- 
historic Inscriptions on Pottery] (Zhuhai: Zhuhai Chu Ban She, 1995). 

19. In December 2002, the first copybook of female writing was published, in which 
a female calligrapher, Wang Cheng-xi, attempts to apply Chinese calligraphy styles, such 
as kai shu, hsing shu, cao shu and zhuan shu, in female writing. Critics comment that 
her attempt successfully transformed the stiff female writing into a more graceful and 
elegant art of writing. However, as I argue later, I consider this copybook as an attempt 
to de-feminize female writing. 

20. Thomas Lamarre, “Diagram, Inscription, Sensation,” A Shock to Thought: Expres- 
sion after Deleuze and Guattari, ed. Massumi (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 
166. Subsequent Lamarre parenthetical page references are to this edition. 

21. Irigaray, “La Mysterique,” Speculum of the Other Woman, trans. Gillian C. Gill 
(Ithaca and New York: Cornell Lfniversity Press, 1974), 193. 

22. Deleuze, “He Stuttered,” Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy, ed. Con- 
stantin V. Boundas and Dorothea Olkowski (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 
25, 27. 

23. Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Graham Burchell and Hugh 
Tomlinson (London and New York: Verso. 1994), 166. 

24. Bob Metcalfe, “Do Computation Fabrics Hold the Key to the Future of the Inter- 
net’s Web?,” Info World, 22 (July 24, 2000), 88. 

25. Philip Goodchild, Deleuze and Guattari: An Introduction to the Politics of Desire 
(London: Sage, 1996), 3-4. 


The Technological Contours of 
Contemporary Science Fiction, 
or, The Science Fiction That 
Science Fiction Doesn’t See 

Brooks Landon 

The last time I Googled “electronic science fiction” I got an amazing 856 
hits. Search the Science Fiction Museum website for “electronic science fiction,” 
however, and you get the equally surprising news that there is no “Content” 
and no “Events, URLs or News Items” to match your search. Admittedly, I 
wasn’t completely sure what I meant by “electronic science fiction,” but Google, 
with the confidence of a search engine on steroids, had no trouble dumping 
hundreds of websites into that category. The Science Fiction Museum website, 
itself an attractive instance of using electronic technology to help us understand 
and advance science fiction, apparently isn’t yet ready to recognize a category 
of which it could be a prime example. 

True, many sites identified by Google seem only tangentially connected 
to what 1 had in mind as “electronic science fiction,” with self-published fantasy 
and roman tica far too prominently represented. And while putative novels such 
as Adam 483: Man or Machine and Eroti-Bot might satisfy some definitions of 
science fiction, they weren’t even close to what I was looking for when I searched 
for “electronic science fiction.” Basically, 1 was after SF narratives or SF-related 
displays, interactive opportunities, and explorations that could not be accessed 
without a computer or, in the case of video games, some form of electric power 
supply. What Google largely seemed to give me was fixed print SF that could 
be accessed, published on demand, or ordered through the web. And what the 
Science Fiction Museum website did not give me were any examples of what 
N. Katherine Hayles, following the lead of Espen Aarseth, calls “cybertexts,” 
second generation hyperfictions that experiment with “ways to incorporate nar- 
rative with sound, motion, animation, and other software functionalities.”' For 



Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

purposes of this chapter, I’d expand that description beyond dramatic narrative 
semblances to include websites that transcend fixed-print exposition to promote 
the experience and interrogation of SF as a cultural and epistemological phe- 
nomenon. So, while I readily acknowledge that the Science Fiction Museum 
website is not a form of electronic literature, it is an electronic space structured 
hypertextually that constructs SF as much more than a catalogue of fixed-print 
fictional texts. While not an electronic fiction, it does belong to the realm of 
electronic SF. 

As it happens, the world of fixed-print fictional texts seems largely to be 
what we get when two of our most respected and knowledgeable experts, Gard- 
ner Dozois and David G. Hartwell, annually survey developments in science 
fiction and report on electronic instances. For some years now, Dozois has ref- 
erenced “the Internet scene” in his “Summation” in each edition of The Year’s 
Best Science Fiction. In his Twenty-First Annual Collection, published in 2004 
and focused on 2003, he notes of the Internet that “things there evolve with 
such lightning speed, with new e-magazines and Internet sites of general interest 
seeming almost to be born one day and die the next, that it remains possible 
that everything I say about it here will be obsolete by the time this book makes 
it into print. Dozois then surveys a number of useful, interesting, and reward- 
ing SF sites, including SciFiction, The Infinite Matrix, Strange Horizons, Oceans 
of the Mind, Revolution SF, Infinity Plus, Locus Online, and Tangent. Under- 
standably, Dozois constructs the Internet as a place primarily for publishing 
and reprinting fixed-print SF, although he has noted for the past few years that 
people turn to the web “for reasons other than just finding stories to read,” and 
he lumps those other reasons together under the category of “general interest” 
sites that “don’t publish fiction” but do publish lots of other stuff “which can 
be great fun to drop in on.”’ He closes his overview of web SF with another 
ode to speed: “Close your eyes for a moment in the Internet world, though, 
and everything will be different when you open them again” {Twenty-First 
introduction xvii). (If change is indeed at the heart of science fiction thinking, 
one might ask why neither Dozois nor the literature he edits so effectively is 
not more concerned with a technology he so nervously identifies as the apoth- 
eosis of change.) 

In his “Introduction” to Year’s Best SF 9, Hartwell calls attention to several 
of the same electronic fiction websites mentioned by Dozois and notes the great 
utility of the Internet Speculative Fiction Data Base and of Tangent Online for 
those who try to keep track of short fiction. It’s worth pointing out, as Hartwell 
does, that Octavia E. Butler’s “Amnesty” (2003), the first story in his collection, 
was originally published electronically on the web at SciFiction. Follow 
Hartwell’s references to the websites of Gory Doctorow and Charles Stross and 
you’ll get a glimpse of what the web can add to our understanding and enjoy- 
ment of SF. Indeed, although he doesn’t refer to any electronic dramatic nar- 
ratives, some fifteen of Hartwell’s brief introductions to the twenty stories in 

14. Technological Contours of Science Fiction (Landon) 


SF 9 contain URLs or references to websites as he tries to make good on his 
promise “to represent the varieties of tones and voices and attitudes,” if not of 
media, “that keep the genre vigorous and responsive to the changing realities 
out of which it emerges, in science and daily life.”^ Hartwell is obviously both 
web savvy and web friendly, and is himself a blogger, so he walks the walk of 
changing realities even if he doesn’t much talk the talk. 

Hartwell and Dozois make their living working with print SF, and no one 
has yet found a reliable way to make money from electronic science hction, so 
1 single out their comments not to hector them in any way, but simply to suggest 
that their silence concerning other than fixed print SF in electronic media is 
representative of a larger silence in SF critical discourse. Curiously enough, 
while histories and theories of SF have consistently — if not obsessively — 
focused on the economic implications of the technological stages of SF as a 
publishing phenomenon, little attention has been paid to the implications of 
these technologies as technologies. The promising dialogue initiated in the pages 
of The New York Review of Science Fiction back in 1993 and 1994 never took off: 
Sarah Smith’s optimistic “Electric Fictions: The State of the Art” in its issue 
No. 63 and Stuart Moulthrop’s more cautionary “Electronic Fictions and ‘The 
Lost Game of Self’” in No. 66 set the stage for a critical debate that never 
occurred.^ We can get a “Cold Equations” forum heated up at the drop of a 
misogynist hat, but serious critical considerations of the implications electronic 
textuality hold for SF are few and far between. Curiously, while both Smith 
and Moulthrop are knowledgeable of and invested in SF, neither saw electronic 
textuality as a more inflected topic for SF than for any other kind of writing. 
And it is worth remembering that Moulthrop, a certifiable electronic fiction 
tyro, was less sanguine about at least the near future of electronic textuality 
than was Smith. In an ingenious and ultimately persuasive representation of 
William Gibson’s electronic text, “Agrippa” (1992), as a culturally conservative 
work, Moulthrop specified what may be too bitter a pill for most writers, includ- 
ing writers of science fiction: “all electronic fictions except ‘Agrippa’ have one 
thing in common: they affirm computer mediation as a means of adding value 
to narrative” (8). 

Whether notwithstanding or because of the challenges electronic fictions 
pose to the writer’s “game of self,” it is important to remember that writing is 
always a technology and has always been a technology —from the earliest mark- 
ings on cave walls through the Gutenberg revolution, and now into the com- 
puter-constructed writing spaces so stunningly theorized by Jay Bolter, Kate 
Hayles, Moulthrop, Espen Aarseth, George Landow, Richard A. Lanham, and 
many others. In this most basic sense, science fiction has itself always been not 
just concerned with technology as one subject, but its own history is deeply 
imbricated in technological processes. Erom Boy’s Papers and Dime Novels to 
the pulps to paperbacks of the fifties and now to the web, modern print SF has 
developed through distinct stages of print technology, and, of course, non- 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

print SF has already taken many forms, with SF in film and on television 
arguably a phenomenon with history, assumptions, and agendas largely distinct 
from those of print SF. And now 1 begin to wonder whether electronic SF, or 
even more specifically web SF, might not be exploring options and promoting 
agendas apart from those previously identified with SF literature and film. 

When Robert Scholes and Eric S. Rabkin noted in 1977 that SF “has 
appeared in every medium of artistic creation” (100) and develops through 
“dialectic” stages, focusing on different media at their moments of popularity, 
the World Wide Web was not even a glimmer in A1 Gore’s eye.'’ Scholes and 
Rabkin probably also did not have in mind any electronic narratives, including 
computer-animated feature films approaching photo-realistic depictions in 
their simulations, computer animated video games, stand-alone hyperfictions 
such as Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl (1995), or web-based New Media nar- 
ratives such as Eric Loyer’s Chroma (2001). On the other hand, almost all the 
pioneering cultural insights and assumptions presented by Scholes and Rabkin 
in Science Fiction: Flistory, Science, Vision point toward a future for science 
fiction in which its ideological and epistemological agendas will be re-mediated 
in narratives made possible by new technologies. My point is simply that the 
newest of these new technologies rewards thoughtful interrogation just as surely 
as do its fixed print and filmic predecessors. It’s not that electronic SE narratives 
are any better or more essential than fixed print SF narratives, but that the fast- 
proliferating, ever-mutating exploration of electronic space by SF merits critical 
attention for what it is — an inherently science fictional topic. 

I’ve focused elsewhere on technological developments in SF film and what 
I’ve described as Post-SF film, so I limit my attention here to instances of elec- 
tronic SF not primarily associated with film or video games. In one sense I’m 
adding a voice to Hayles’s call in Writing Machines for a “medial ecology,” in 
which we assume (in very SF-like terms) “that the relationships between dif- 
ferent media are as diverse and complex as those between different organisms 
coexisting within the same ecotome, including mimicry, deception, coopera- 
tion, competition, parasitism, and hyperparasitism” (5). In another sense. I’m 
suggesting that SF in particular, the literature of change — and increasingly the 
literature of speed — has much to gain in thinking more about the material 
properties of its increasingly electronic production and dissemination tech- 
nologies. We experience this phenomenon as SF print works are published and 
reproduced in electronic media, as the web offers SF writers and readers a new 
space for exploring concepts and images not accessible in fixed-print formats, 
and as the thought-experiments so important to SF can be represented by or 
embodied in computer simulations and motion graphic narratives significantly 
unlike either print SF or SF film. 

We have many SF narratives that recursively refer to science fiction, science 
fiction writers, and the imaginative process of writing SF, but relatively few 
about the technologies of writing. We have a few classic offshoots of the pos- 

14. Technological Contours of Science Fiction (Landon) 


sessed machine story in which the machine was a writing tool. In Fredric 
Brown’s 1942 “Etaoin Shrdlu,” a linotype machine achieves sentience and 
threatens to take over the world of publishing, if not the world itself.^ And in 
Clifford D. Simak’s 1950 “Skirmish,” a whole bunch of machines, including a 
typewriter, gain sentience. The typewriter both critiques and corrects the stories 
written by a newspaper reporter, heralding an opening battle in the coming 
war between humanity and liberated machines.® 

More recently, and more relevant to the kind of electronic SF I’m talking 
about, our engagement with computers has led us to recast machine sentience, 
once largely the province of alien possession and/or labor revolt, as artificial 
intelligence or, in the case of an increasing number of stories about nanotech- 
nology, as the emerging consciousness of self-organizing systems. Writing itself 
becomes an object of speculation in a few of these stories, as it does in Chris 
Beckett’s “The Marriage of Sky and Sea,” a story first published in the March, 
2000 Interzone and anthologized in David G. Hartwell’s Year’s Best SF 6. Clancy, 
the intrepid writer/traveler protagonist of that story, relies heavily on Com, the 
expert system that manages almost all of Clancy’s needs, including ghostwriting 
good portions of his best-selling electronic books. Clancy dictates notes for his 
book to Com, but expects much more of his expert system than playback, as 
seen in this exchange : 

“Right, Com. At this point add a chapter about the Aristotle Complex. What we 
know of the early settlers, their motives, their desire to escape from decadence ... 
and so on. Themes: finality, no turning back, taking risks, a complete break with the 

“Neo-romantic style?” [asked Com] 

“Neo-romantic stroke factual hard-boiled. Oh and include three poetic sharp- 
edged sentences. Just three. Low adjective count.”® 

And at least one other SF writer, John Barnes, speaking to interviewer 
Mitch Wagner, sees com-like devices in the future of writing: 

“Eventually, we will see a lot of partially machine- written text [...] someone writing 
a fantasy novel will simply click on ‘forest, dark’ and a paragraph of description of 
dark forest — in a style reasonably close to the writer’s — will appear. Not unlike the 
effects of CAD on stage design; people bang out a ground plan and paint elevations 
(the basic drawings from which you build a set) in nothing flat, but fewer and fewer 
designers bother with getting the right Corinthian column or Louis XV chair, and 
the little touches with the pencil that make a window funny or a temple solemn have 
ceased; they just cut and paste the one that’s available.... The already-smeared- 
together robots-blasters-starships universe, and the already very overlapped elves- 
dwarves-and-trolls universe, will congeal into single versions in which many people 
spend their whole writing careers. I also predict the great majority of readers won’t 
notice or care[....] 

“Eventually many writers may work more like actors — your job is to go through 
the book writing everything that one particular character sees, in that character’s 
voice, while the other 30 people on your team (that’s one big book, but not impossibly 
big) do the same for their characters,” Barnes said. 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

Many series will become open source, shared worlds and anthologies where “large 
amounts of what we now call fan writing are deliberately encouraged”; the creators 
make money by “selecting the additions and revisions to the canon and selling the 
‘authorized’ version at any given time.” 

Individually written novels will become “museum art,” like opera, ballet and string 
quartets are today, “functionally dead” with relative small audiences and few new 
works “even though they were once major mass entertainment.” 

“But at the same time, there will be more work for writers than ever, and more 
writers making a good living, because the appetite for text will be enormous; e-books 
that can be read [ ] right down the plot line in the head of one character at 85,000 
words will have a million or so words of the same incidents in other viewpoints, 
footnotes on everything, maps and descriptions and histories, and so on.” 

He added, “Of course, some of us will not enjoy being ‘food description specialists’ 
or ‘female teenager’ ‘characterization technicians.’ But we’re a notoriously cranky 

Coming at writing technology from a more ominously inscriptive angle, 
Doctorow gives us the idea of a kind of brain-imprinting “flash-bake” tech- 
nology in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003), itself a novel published 
both for free on the web under a Creative Commons license and for a price in 
print by TOR, tantalizing us with another possibly revolutionary approach to 
electronic fiction. 

Science fiction stories that involve writing technologies as part of their 
semblances are interesting to me because they help explain a surprising disin- 
terest in, if not distaste for, writing technologies in the referential world of sci- 
ence fiction writers. It may be that SF is performing some of its originary 
anxieties in its explicit and implicit reaction to “writing machines,” or that atti- 
tudes in the SF community toward actual writing machines accentuate the 
conflict between ideational and aesthetic agendas that has always been at least 
in the background of SF. Whatever the reason, our SF imagination is fascinated 
by computer technology that can run a spaceship or simulate a world, but the 
computer technology that makes possible an electronic narrative such as Shelley 
Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, Eric Loyer’s Chroma, or Diana Slattery’s The Glide 
Project (2003) remains pretty much beneath our attention. SF, the fabled liter- 
ature of change, has not included in its creative or critical discourses much 
thought about change in the technologies of literature. For example, while tech- 
noculture critics such as Hayles find in Patchwork Girl many of the salient issues 
of electronic textuality and of cyborg reading practices, this title rarely appears 
in discussions of contemporary SF, which remain fixated on traditional linear 

For me. Patchwork Girl, a pioneering hypermedia work that both recon- 
structs and deconstructs the Frankenstein myth from a powerful feminist per- 
spective, represents all that is lost when our textual histories of SF narratives 
overlook the material situation of these texts’ production. Since I believe SF is 
most important as a set of values and beliefs rather than as a form or mode or 
genre, I’m interested in the cultural phenomena that help us understand what 

14. Technological Contours of Science Fiction (Landon) 


gives rise to the science-fictional imagination and conversely, what cultural for- 
mations and material results can be seen as having risen from that science- 
fictional imagination. 1 also believe that SF is first and foremost a way of reading 
and can be found in reading cultural phenomena just as productively as in read- 
ing conveniently labeled print texts. Indeed, following H. Bruce Franklin’s 
provocative suggestion that the most important work of science fiction in 1939 
was not a literary text or film, but the 1939 New York World’s Fair, 1 wonder 
whether the most important SF work of any year might be a technology and 
not a text. 

Here I’ll make my predictable and longstanding pitch that, particularly in 
a world that has grown increasingly if not overwhelmingly science-fictional, it 
is important for at least some of us to believe that the situation of science 
fiction — whether science fiction literature, science fiction film, science fiction 
electronic media, or science fiction thinking as it appears in any form — deserves 
our attention just as surely as the semblances of science fiction texts. It is the 
work of science fiction we should think and talk and write about, just as surely 
as we think and talk and write about science fiction works. For me, this means 
that it is as important to think about the future of narrative in a hypermedia 
world — some of the contours of electronic SF — as it is to think about conven- 
tional SF narratives about the future. 


1. N. Katherine Hayles, Writing Machines (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 2002), 27. Sub- 
sequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

2. Gardner Dozois, “Summation,” The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-First 
Annual Edition, ed. Dozois (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004), xiv. Subsequent page 
references in the text are to this edition. 

3. Dozois, “Introduction,” The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twentieth Annual Edition, 
ed. Dozois (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003), xvi. 

4. David G. Hartwell, “Introduction,” Year’s Best SF 9, ed. Hartwell and Kathryn 
Cramer (New York: HarperCollins/Eos, 2004), xi-xii. 

5. Sarah Smith, “Electric Fictions: The State of the Art,” The New York Review of 
Science Fiction, No. 63 (November, 1993), 8-11; Stuart Moulthrop, “Electronic Eictions 
and ‘The Lost Game of Self,’” The New York Review of Science Fiction, No. 66 (February, 
1994), 8-14. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. 

6. Robert Scholes and Eric S. Rabkin, Science Fiction: History, Science, Vision (Lon- 
don and New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 100. 

7. Fredric Brown, “Etaoin Shrdlu,” Angels and Spaceships, by Brown (New York: E. 
P. Dutton &Gompany, 1954), 25-50. Originally published in Unknown (February, 1942). 

8. Clifford D. Simak, “Skirmish,” Strangers in the Universe: Science Fiction Stories, 
by Simak (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956), 191-208. Originally published in Amaz- 
ing Stories (December, 1950). 

9. Chris Beckett, “The Marriage of Sky and Sea,” Interzone, No. 153 (March, 2000), 18. 

10. Mitch Wagner, “The Potential of E-Books,” SFWA Bulletin, No. 162 (Summer, 

2004), 6. 


Thinking About the 
Smart Wireless World 

Gregory Benford 

A Scenario 

Technologies never evolve in a vacuum. They must integrate with other 
advancing technologies, older ones, and most especially with the quirky people 
who use them. To focus on concrete, lived experience, I open with a short imag- 
inative fiction: 

He was walking into the mall when the side of the Macy’s building said to 
him, “Hello, Albert! So happy to see you again.” 

A big, glossy white smile exploded across the crimson Macy’s display wall. 
The pixels were old fashioned, big blotchy ovals and squares, so the teeth wob- 
bled and the lips jerked back and forth from red to scarlet. Practically antique. 
He couldn’t recall having been here, a second rate mall looking a bit run down, 
but the gushy wall rushed ahead in its cordial, silky woman’s voice. 

“You last graced us with your presence 2.43 years ago, when you purchased 
some camping equipment at Let’s Go!, one of our most popular stores.” 

“Oh yeah.” He slowed. “I was just gonna pick up some shoes—” 

“We’re all very sorry, but Let’s Go! has ... gone. Left us.” 

“Out of business?” 

“Sadly, yes. Customer demand for outdoor equipment has fallen. But!—” 
the voice brightened —“we have a new store, ComfyFit. They have a wide, fash- 
ionable selection for big, athletic men like you.” 

He wasn’t big or athletic but he wasn’t dumb, either. “Can the compli- 

“Oh, and assertive, too!” the womanly voice boomed happily. People 
passing nearby looked at the wall and snickered. 

He hit his shutout control, but the mallwall went on babbling in full-color 


15. Thinking About the Smart Wireless World (Benford) 


big-screen enthusiasm about the bargains “just a few steps away!” Multicolored 
maps flowed across the pixels, in case he was brain dead and needed guidance. 

“Damn!” He walked faster. His inboard software was only three months 
old, but already even this cheapo mall could block his disabling defenses. Like 
most people these days, he was in a perpetual privacy battle with the invasive 
world. Lately he was losing. He made his way past the wall but the images fol- 
lowed him, splashing in gaudy crimsons and blues along the foyer of the mall 

The map highlighting the ComfyFit store led him to it, and he ducked 
inside before it could embarrass him further. But when he came out with a pair 
of what the TwenCen had called sneakers (did anybody sneak anymore?) a 
satiny voice said, “Tm so sorry about that, Albert.” 

“You should be.” He didn’t slow or even glance around. He could tell from 
the well-shaped tones that the mall had him on a tunnel mike rig, trapping 
their talk in a bubble a few feet wide. 

“It’s just that, you were my very first customer.” 


“Think hack 2.43 years ago. I was on my first outing, just a simple greeter 
program, building up experience. I hailed you and advised you about Let’s Go! 
Don’t you remember?” 

“Sure, just like I remember all the traffic lights I go through.” 

“Oh, I like the way you say that. Almost like Bogart.” 

“Go away.” 

“This is going badly, isn’t it? Believe me. I’d do anything to make it up to 

Was that a Marilyn Monroe sigh? Sonic focusing was so good now they 
could feed you anybody’s voice. Probably the cameras embedded around here 
had profiled him, white- straight-unaccompanied-midrange affluent. “Okay, how 
about a discount on these shoes?” 

“That transaction is complete,” the voice said stifQy, like a schoolmarm, 
and then immediately, “Oh — sorry, that was the override program. I’ll stop 
it — there!” The Marilyn voice came back. “Now I can arrange the discount, 

His pace slowed. “Huh? You’re two programs?” 

“Discount done!” she cried happily. Then her tone shifted to close, husky, 
intimate. “Think of me as a person. A woman. One who ... understands you.” 

“What?” People were looking at him oddly. After all, the tunnel mikes 
blanked your speech, so you looked like you were talking to yourself. Like a 
well-dressed, babbling street person. 

“I’m not just some lines of programming. I have needs!” 

“Go away.” 

“I can feel your defenses going up, but it won’t affect me. I’m a person, a 
womanly application who knows everything about you, Albert.” 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

He punched in the emergency override command, the one required by law, 
but he could still hear her say, “I want—” 

“I want you to shut up!" 

“All right. I am a woman-application. I am compliant.” 

The slight acoustic deadening went away. He found his car, a little shaken, 
and told it to drive him home. 

X- ^ 

His apartment smelled his irk and scented the rooms as he paced through 
them. Some classic hiphop music mixed with scent, 3D art, a comforting air 
temperature and humidity ... and he began to feel better. He could sense his 
back muscles ease as he gazed at surf breaking on Hawaiian shores. Even know- 
ing that the view was out of flat-screen high-resolution windows didn’t dispel 
the salty tang and echoing hammer of the waves. 

But his headache wouldn’t go away. He went into the bathroom and rum- 
maged around for his fast pain editors, but when he picked up the bottle it 
winked red at him. “Damn!” Sensing humidity and temperature, prescription 
bottles constantly recalculated the expiration date for the medicine inside. 
When he tried to open the bottle anyway it commandeered his home system 
and sent a loud, “No — expired!” in a stern, schoolmarm voice. 

He went to make dinner but a chip in the packaged ham had told the 
refrigerator that it should be thrown out. He got a stern message again and 
when he said, “Look, it’s only a day older —“ the refrigerator turned off its light 
and made a blaring noise. 

“I hate this new programming!” he shouted. 

“It is tailored for you,” the house said in its soothing butler’s voice. 

“You’ll answer when spoken to.” 

“I believed I was being spoken to, sir.” 

“I want that ham.” He was used to machines that gave assistance in their 
own operation — that is, answered dumb questions with the unfailing courtesy 
of house servants— because houses had become servants. 

“I do not advise that you override the refrigerator, sir,” the house mur- 
mured. “It is reliable. Oh, and your friend Rebecca has arrived.” 

“Already?” He hadn’t even showered. “Let her in.” 

As she swept in his left ear implant discreetly sniffed the air and whispered, 
“Some trace of shedding cold viruses.” 

“Uh, how’re you feeling?” he asked her after a quick dry peck of a kiss. 

“fine. Oh, I get it. I told you your system’s threshold settings are too low.” 

“Maybe,” he said grudgingly. 

“Remember that party last week? It said that whole house was a Petri dish 
of flu.” 

“Well, maybe it was,” he said defensively, handing her a glass of wine the 
refrigerator had poured. 

15. Thinking about the Smart Wireless World (Benford) 


Rebecca frowned prettily. “So we had to leave — and there were senso stars 
there, too.” 

“You’re star crazed.” This was one of their standard arguments. He had 
merely pointed out that the most admired people in the world were those who 
were good at pretending to be other people. Somehow she had taken offense. 

She sniffed and went into the living room, stopped abruptly and said, 
“What’s thisV’ 

Written in a neat hand on the flatscreen, all across the crashing waves of 
Maui was 

I Love You Albert. 

He felt a lurching surprise. “Uh, must be some system malf.” 

“Ummm.” Her eyes narrowed. “Couldn’t be some techie girlfriend of 

“I don’t know anybody who could crack the house code. Isn’t that illegal?” 
He was in investment banking and so knew nothing practical. 

“Ummm.” She peered at the writing hanging in what seemed midair, bright 
phosphorescent lines. “Pretty curvy writing. Like a woman’s— no, a girl’s.” 

He felt violated by this, a churning burn building in him, but he knew he 
should deal with Rebecca first. “Look, I don’t know— “ 

The lines dissolved, replaced by a message in script: 

I Will Wait. 

Rebecca said, “Look at those circles dotting the i’s. High school stuff.” 

He stared at the writing. “It’s a mall program. Somehow the thing followed 
me home.” 

She frowned, mouth twisting. “Ummm.” He was coming to dislike the 
tenor of her ummms. 

X- X- 

He spent the next morning not thinking about the night before. Rebecca 
had stormed out of his apartment and now would not accept incoming calls. 

He had gotten derailed in trying to mollify her, while his own outrage 
built. The mall program has tracked him, invaded his castle. And with Rebecca 
gone, he had to shout his anger at the walls, getting back only the annoying, 
infinite politeness of the butler program. Sympathetic, of course, but somehow 
unsatisfying. That was not so obvious after a morning of telecalls, tech talk 
and well-phrased vituperation. Nobody seemed to know what a meta-program 
was or who might be responsible. 

Only two days later, when Rebecca coyly came back, did he make any 
progress. The mall where Ernestine had “met” Albert disclaimed any knowledge. 
“Sure,” Rebecca said sardonically. “Pure Cover Your Ass strategy.” 

“They may honestly not know,” Albert said, rubbing his temples. His 
headache would not go away. “Their engineer referred to ‘spooky phenomena’ 
that has been cropping up in customer interface software.” 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

Rebecca’s lawyerly eyes narrowed. “Let’s go see that guy.” 

He was lean and ferret-eyed and lived for techtalk. “See, the smarter you 
make these systems, the more responsive they are. The point, right? But to be 
that way, the software has to build a model of the customer’s wants and dislikes.” 
“From your purchasing records, stuff like that?” Rebecca asked. 

“Nah, much more. Movement patterns, viewing prefs, Internet habits, how 
your companions look— “ 

“They record that?” Albert was affronted. 

“Hey,” the techguy said irritably, “that’s public knowledge. You walk 
around in the open, doncha? Cameras can take a reading on whether you like 
the blondes or brunettes, short or tall, pretty or — ” he didn’t even glance side- 
ways at Rebecca — “whatever, right? Then dice you out into categories. File 
away your likes and dislikes. Cross-correlate with your other patterns. Predictive 
matrices. Plenty of savvy psychometrics behind this code, I tell you.” 

Rebecca said ominously, “There are the privacy codes, too.” 

His face sharpened as it got more wary, his chin pulling down to a point. 
“This Ernestine character, she’s not part of our suite.” 

“She popped up on your wall,” Rebecca persisted, “and used your customer 
profile of Albert.” 

“And never broke off,” Albert said self-righteously. 

“Okay, the personality construct, it musta got away, somehow.” 

Rebecca pounced. “So you admit responsibility.” 

“Never said that, no.” He bristled. “There’s feedback, y’know. Every customer 
encounter teaches the system something, and that gets fed into the central profile. 
This Ernestine isn’t some code that lives in the mall, it’s a dispersed phenom.” 
Rebecca persisted, “But it started here, with you.” 

“We’re not responsible for nonlinear systemic effects,” he rattled off, clearly 
a mantra from his legal staff. 

Albert said, “Everybody’s smelling lawsuit here, but I just want it to stop.” 
“We’ll track it,” he said. “Find how this Ernestine construct cracked your 
house codes, why she’s doing this.” 

“Good,” Albert said. “When?” 

Crisply, “Already on it.” 


Techguy ’s facade cracked a little. “Kinda hard to say.” 

* * 

The Evolution of Wireless 

How should this little fiction end? 

The point of walking through a scenario is to elicit our own responses and 

15. Thinking about the Smart Wireless World (Benford) 


then compare them with our official positions. It helps to enliven policy issues 
with real human concerns. (Romance is the best of these for drawing in audi- 
ences, yet it is seldom seen in policy debates.) We must face the fact that our 
snazzy technologies actually intersect people’s lives, often in the most vital por- 

Foremost, take privacy. Our time is said to be the Information Age, but 
in fact information is pretty much free, especially since the Internet. The valued 
commodity is not the information (the message) but the attention paid to it. 
Commerce runs on an attention economy. That’s what advertisers pay for. 

This narrative calls up the irritation people may well feel if their open 
wireless portals become spammed with commercials. They may fear even darker 
purposes, of Orwellian dimension. What will be their reaction? 

Actions and Reactions 

The past is a guide. Inevitably, wireless technologies will be caught up in an 
arms race. 

The model here is the computer virus, which I invented in 1969 (not a fact 
I have advertised, though). I wrote up my first bit of code and made predictions 
about the effect of such “bad code” on the DARPA net in 1970 (though my 
warnings had little effect). By 1980 a big business began marketing defenses 
against viral pranksters; Norton Utilities and Vaccine continue to make large 
profits today. 

The same will probably happen with wireless technologies that access the 
individual in a publicly accessible way. Resistance to being endlessly interro- 
gated or importuned will grow, provoking the same kind of screening tech- 
nologies we see today: radar-sensors in cars, firewalls, and call screeners on 
phone lines. Jammers and filters will abound. Stealth technologies will grow. 

The problem of telling a friendly, desirable incoming signal from an irk- 
some advertisement will be mostly a software distinction. There will be some- 
thing like Norton Utilities for it — a defensive response. 

Far more troubling is an offensive answer. Imagine a battery-powered 
microwave radiator that fits in a backpack, so you can walk through a future 
plaza and blind every emitter and sensor in the quad. It radiates broadband in 
sharp pulses of ten microseconds rise time, five pulses a second. It works mostly 
by blowing the diodes in the electronics running antenna systems. 

This already exists and can be bought commercially. One walk-through with 
this would take out a lot of very expensive technology. Its battery lifetime is 
about 30 minutes, so a walk around the campus would destroy the entire cam- 
pus network — and spotting the culprit would not be simple, unless one were 

I do not think this is an unlikely scenario; consider the attitude of the hero 
of my above narrative. Only the present price (nearly $100,000 now, and sure 


Part II: The Practice of Prophecy 

to decline) would restrain him. And others can have more easily provoked rea- 
sons, and darker motives. 

Further, the general idea of microwaves as a two-way medium will soon 
swim into public view. In future wars, we shall see “microwave bombs” used 
to blind communications in a broad area. Their generalization and scaling down 
will be obvious to many. 

Unintended Consequences 

As technologies proliferate, they will interact in nonlinear ways. “The 
street finds its own uses for things,” as the adage goes. Wireless will not evolve 
in a vacuum. 

An example on our horizon is the mix between wireless and robots. 

A linked world is also a snoopy one; we can expect robots to be no different. 
Indeed, tiny ’bots slipping into a room to listen and see unnoticed will be a 
common method used by private detectives, commercial espionagers and 

We can expect in the next decade that robots will become common, just 
as personal computers invaded offices in the early 1980s. There are now robot 
gofers in hospitals, security guards with IR vision at night, and lawn mowers. 
They haven’t spread, but they will. And they all use wireless. 

Co-opting these systems or just defeating them will have plausible moti- 
vations. This will be another type of arms race, particularly in security ’bots. 

Generally, our systems will evolve in “smart spots” such as campuses, city 
centers, industrial parks — then move outward as the technology improves and 
gets cheaper. Smart spots inevitably interact with smart mobiles— robots and 
transportation — to extend their reach. 

Mobile, smart machines will get ever-smarter as chip size and costs drop. 
This means smarter mobiles will interact with smarter wireless systems, the 
market demand for each driving the other. 

Where does this all lead? To a mature technology that still suffers from 
arms races, and may always do so. We still have computer viruses, hackers, fire- 
walls and spammers. 

The future wireless world will have its analogues of all these. 

Beyond these issues lies the deeper public issue of the ownership of a person’s 

Here sensorium means the volume which a person’s artificial sensors are 
sensitive to— presently, essentially none. This volume will expand for some as 
they begin to interact with the embedded emitters and chips in architecture, 
workplaces, vehicles, etc. All these can in principle be captured (hijacked, some 
would say) by outsiders. Some outsiders will use these channels to spam, others 
to extract information. The shopping mall I depict wiU surely treasure customer 
background data and pay a price to get it. 

15. Thinking about the Smart Wireless World (Benford) 


Who decides the boundaries of this sensorium? Its sensitivities? Perme- 
ability? We should remember that for ordinary people, technology is always 
personal. The more invasive it becomes, the more they want a hand in shaping 
its nature. 

Technologies being developed today should be considered in light of these very 
real possibilities. It is easier to design systems with this in mind rather than to 
retrofit hardware later. Otherwise, these effects will arrive like bugs on our 
windshield — a big mess, but too late to do much about it. 

Direct experience is the best teacher, but it can also be the most expen- 

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Bibliography of Works 
Related to Science Fiction and 
the Prediction of the Future 

Since an overwhelming majority of science fiction works involve predictions of the 
future, almost any critical discussion of science fiction is arguably in some fashion ana- 
lyzing the genre’s prophetic powers; there are also numerous nonfictional books and 
articles endeavoring to predict the future in a logical or scientific manner. Thus, to pro- 
duce a bibliography of reasonable dimensions, we generally limit ourselves to three 
types of texts: commentaries or studies of science fiction specifically addressing how the 
genre predicts the future, or how accurate its past predictions have been; nonfictional 
visions of the future written by science fiction writers; and nonfictional visions of the 
future which reflect the influence of, or had an impact on, science fiction. In borderline 
cases, we opt for inclusiveness. 

Adams, Douglas. “Predicting the Future.” The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy 
One Last Time. By Adams. Ed. Peter Guzzardi. London: Macmillan, 2002, 102-104. 
Aires, Nick. “Predictions.” The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: 
Themes, Works, and Wonders, Volume 2. Ed. Gary Westfahl. Westport, CT: Greenwood 
Press, 2005, 624-626. 

Aldiss, Brian W. “Fiction or Prediction?” Times Online. At http://technology.timeson- Originally pub- 
lished in The Sunday Times (October 7, 2007). 

. The Shape of Further Things: Speculation on Change. 1970. London: Corgi Books, 


. This World and Nearer Ones. Kent, OEI: Kent State University Press, 1981. 

Aligica, Paul D. “Prediction, Explanation and the Epistemology of Future Studies.” 
Futures, 35 (December, 2003), 1027-1040. 

Alkon, Paul J. Origins of Futuristic Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987. 
Anderson, Poul, Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Ray Bradbury, Algis Budrys, Arthur C. 
Clarke, Robert A. Eleinlein, Frederik Pohl, Rod Serling, Theodore Sturgeon, William 
Tenn, and A. E. van Vogt. “Playboy Panel: 1984 and Beyond.” Playboy, 13 (July, 1963), 
25-37; (August, 1963), 31-35, 108, 112-118. 

Armytage, W. H. G. Yesterday’s Tomorrows: A Historical Survey of Future Societies. 

Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968. 

Ash, Brian. Faces of the Future: The Lessons of Science Fiction. New York: Taplinger Pub- 
lishing Company, 1975. 



Bibliography of SF and the Prediction of the Future 

. “Hardware: The Influence of Science.” The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. 

Ed. Ash. New York: Harmony Books, 1977, 248-252. 

Asimov, Isaac. “The Dreams of Science Fiction.” Asimov on Science Fiction. By Asimov. 
1981. New York: Avon Books, 1982, 67-75. 

. “How Easy to See the Future!” Asimov on Science Fiction, 61-66. Originally pub- 
lished in Natural History (April, 1975). 

. “Life in 1990.” Science Digest, 58 (August, 1965), 63-70. 

. “Missed Opportunities.” SciQuest, 54 (November, 1981), 33. 

. “The Next Hundred Years: Science-Based Estimates of What the Century Ahead 

Might Bring.” The World Almanac. Centennial Edition. New York: Press Publishing 
Co., 1968, 39-41. 

. “Prediction.” Gold: The Pinal Science Fiction Collection. By Asimov. 1995. New 

York: HarperPrism, 1996, 205-210. Originally published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fic- 
tion Magazine (July, 1989). 

. “Prediction as a Side-Effect.” Reflections of the Future. Ed. Russell Hill. Boston: 

Ginn & Co., 1975, 5-18. 

. “Science Fiction, an Aid to Science, Foresees the Future.” Smithsonian, 1 (May, 

1970), 41-47. 

. “The Truth Isn’t Stranger Than Science Fiction, Just Slower.” New York Times 

(February 12, 1984), E20. 

. “Visit to the World’s Fair of 2014.” New York Times Magazine (August 16, 1964), 


, and Jean Marc Cote. Futuredays: A Nineteenth Century Vision of the Year 2000. 

New York: Henry Holt, 1986. 

, and Richard Han tula. Science Fiction: Vision of Tomorrow? Revised Edition. Mil- 
waukee, WI: Gareth Stevens Publishers, 2005. 

Banks, Michael A. “SF Prediction: Speculation or Future Fact?” Starlog, 15 (August, 
1978), 61-63. 

Barley, Tony. “Prediction, Programme and Fantasy in Jack London’s The Iron Heel.” 
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erpool: Liverpool University Press, 1995, 153-171. 

Barr, Marleen S., ed. Envisioning the Future: Science Fiction and the Next Millennium. 
Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003. 

Bawden, David. “The Nature of Prediction and the Information Future: Arthur C. 
Glarke’s Odyssey Vision.” ASL/B Proceedings, 49 (March, 1997), 57-60. 

Baxter, Stephen. Deep Future. London: Orion/Gollancz, 2001. 

Becker, Lambert. “The ‘Future’ of Science Fiction.” Fanscient, 4 (Spring/Summer, 1951), 

Benford, Gregory. Deep Time: How Humanity Communicates across Millennia. New York: 
Avon Books, 1999. 

. “Old Legends.” New Fegends. Ed. Greg Bear. New York: Tor, 1995, 292-306. 

, and the Editors of Popular Mechanics. The Wonderful Future That Never Was: 

Plying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past. New 
York: Hearst Books, 2010. 

Berger, Albert I. “The Triumph of Prophecy: Science Fiction and Nuclear Power in the 
Post-Hiroshima Period.” Science-Fiction Studies, 3 (July, 1976), 143-150. 

Bernal, J. D. The World, the Flesh, and the Devil. New York: E. P. Dutton & Go., 1929. 

Berry, Adrian. The Next Ten Thousand Years: A Vision of Man’s Future in the Universe. 
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Bibliography of SF and the Prediction of the Future 


Blackford, Russell. “Far Future.” The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fan- 
tasy, Volume 1, 280-282. 

. “Technological Meliorism and the Posthuman Vision: Arthur C. Clarke and the 

Ultimate Future of Intelligence.” The New York Review of Science Fiction, No. 159 
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Bloomfield, Brian P. “Narrating the Future of Intelligent Machines: The Role of Science 
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Bova, Ben. The High Road. New York: Pocket Books, 1983. 

. “The Role of Science Fiction.” Science Fiction, Today and Tomorrow. Ed. Reginald 

Bretnor. 1974. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1975, 3-14. 

. “The SF Game.” Viewpoint. By Bova. Cambridge, MA: NESFA Press, 1977, 89- 


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Brandis, Evgeni, and Vladimir Dmitrevskiy. “The Future, Its Promoters and False 
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Branscomb, Lewis M. “Science in 2006, Revisited.” American Scientist, 91 (May/June, 
2003), 250-253. 

Brigg, Peter. “Sir Julius Vogel’s Anno Domini 2000; or Woman’s Destiny: On Mispredicting 
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and Libraries, 13 (March, 1994), 53-61. 

. “Our Favorite Cliche: A World Filled With Idiots ... or Why Fiction Routinely 

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Tomorrow’s Perils.” Tomorrow Happens. By Brin. Framingham, MA: NESFA Press, 
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Broderick, Damien, ed. Year Million: Science at the Far Edge of Knowledge. New York: 
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Brosterman, Norman. Out of Time: Designs for the Twentieth-Century Future. New York: 
Harry N. Abrams, 2000. 

Bruinsma, Ted. Foresight Capacity: A Look at America in the Year 2050 a.d. Torrance, 
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Bryning, Frank. “What Has Science Fiction to Say?” Meanjin, No. 13 (Winter, 1954), 

Burt, George, and Kees van der Heijden. “First Steps: Toward Purposeful Activities in 
Scenario Thinking and Future Studies.” Futures, 35 (December, 2003), 1011-1026. 

Bush, Vannevar. “As We May Think.” Atlantic Monthly, 176 (July, 1945), 101-108. 


Bibliography of SF and the Prediction of the Future 

Campbell, John W., Jr. “Atomic Age.” Astounding Science-Fiction, 36 (November, 1945), 
5-6, 98. 

. “Future Tense.” Astounding Science-Fiction, 23 (June, 1939), 6. 

. “History to Come.” Astounding Science-Fiction, 27 (May, 1941), 5-6. 

. “Introduction.” Venus Equilateral. By George O. Smith. New York: Prime Press, 

1947, 8-12. 

. “Non-Escape Literature.” Collected Editorials from Analog. By Campbell. Selected 

by Harry Harrison. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1966, 227-231. Orig- 
inally published in Astounding Science Eiction (February, 1959). 

. “Science Fiction and the Opinion of the Universe.” Saturday Review, 39 (May 

12, 1956), 9-10, 42-43. 

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Campbell, T. D. “From Prophecy to Prediction, 14: Oswald Spengler: The Approaching 
Death of Western Civilization.” Eutures, 8 (October, 1976), 438-443. 

Carter, Paul A. The Creation of Tomorrow: Eifty Years of Magazine Science Eiction. New 
York: Columbia University Press, 1977. 

Cetron, Marvin, and Thomas O’Toole. Encounters with the Future: A Forecast of Life 
into the 21st Century. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982. 

Chatham, G. N. Flaruspicating with Science Fiction, Or, Through the Looking Glass, Dimly. 
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London: Gollancz, 1993, 199-201. Originally published in The Book of Predictions 

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. “The Twenty-First Century: A (Very) Brief History.” Greetings, Carbon-Based 

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. The View from Serendip. 1977. New York: Del Rey/Ballantine Books, 1984. 

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. “American Anticipations: War and Peace, in the American Style.” Futures, 18 

(June, 1986), 464-475. 

. “And That Was the Future: Forecasting Our Environmental Future.” Futures, 21 

(December, 1989), 647-658. 

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21 (August, 1988), 378-389. 

. “And That Was the Future: The Context of Conjecture: Chaldea to Chernobyl.” 

Futures, 20 (April, 1988), 182-193. 

. “And That Was the Future: The World Will End Tomorrow.” Futures, 20 (August, 

1988), 424-433. 

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. “From Prophecy to Prediction, 15: The Idea of the Future.” Futures, 8 (December, 

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. Pattern of Expectation 1644-2001. New York: Basic Books, 1979. 

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tember, 1971), 302-305. 

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. “Patterns of Prediction: Jules Verne and the Vision of the Future.” Futures, 1 

(September, 1969), 464-468. 

. “Prophets and Predictors, 5: Prelude to Prediction: Andreae, Kepler, Campanella.” 

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. Voices Prophesying War: 1763-1984. London: Oxford University Press, 1966. 

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ling Kindersley, 1995, 9-31. 

Gole, Dandridge M. Beyond Tomorrow: The Next 50 Years in Space. Amherst, WI: 
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De Camp, L. Sprague. “Seers Should Stick to Science.” Washington Post and Times Herald 
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Ferro, David L., and Eric S. Swedin, eds. Science Fiction and Computing: Essays on Inter- 
linked Domains. Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishers, forthcoming. 

Forward, Robert F. Future Magic: How Science Fiction Will Become Tomorrow’s Reality. 
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Wells, H. G. The Shape of Things to Come. London: Macmillan, 1934. 

. The Time Machine. 1895. New York: Berkley, 1957. 

Werbner, Pnina. “Introduction: the Dialectics of Cultural Hybridity.” Debating Cultural 
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Tariq Modood. London and New Jersey: Zed Books, 1997, 1-26. 

Westfahl, Gary. Cosmic Engineers: A Study of Hard Science Fiction. Westport, CT: Green- 
wood Press 1996. 

Bibliography of Other Works Cited 


. “Greyer Lensmen, Or Looking Backward in Anger.” Interzone, No. 129 (March, 

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“Will Jenkins Dies.” [no author given] Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field, 
No. 175 (June 24, 1975), 1. 

Willman, David. “Suspect Stood to Gain from Anthrax Panic.” The Los Angeles Times 
(August 2, 2008), Al, AlO. At http://articles.latimes.eom/2008/aug/02/nation/na- 

Wise, J. Maegregor. Exploring Technology and Social Space. London and New Delhi: Sage, 

Wittig, Monique. The Lesbian Body. Trans. David Le Vay. Boston: Beacon Press, 1973. 

Wolfe, Gary K. The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction. Kent: 
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March 13, 2010. 

Yanal, Robert J. Paradoxes of Emotion and Fiction. University Park: Pennsylvania State 
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Yau, Esther C. M., ed. Af Full Speed: Hong Kong Cinema in a Borderless World. Min- 
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About the Contributors 

Gregory Benford is a professor of physics at the University of California, Irvine, is a 
Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and was a visiting fellow at Cambridge University. In 1995 he 
received the Lord Prize for contributions to science, and in 2007 won the Asimov Award 
for science writing. He continues research in both astrophysics and plasma physics. His 
fiction has won many awards, including the Nebula Award for his novel Timescape. 

Amy Kit-sze Chan has a doctoral degree in intercultural studies from the Chinese Uni- 
versity of Hong Kong and now teaches English literature and cultural studies in the 
Department of English Language and Literature, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, and 
Master Program’s in Intercultural Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is the 
coeditor of World Weavers: Globalization, Science Fiction, and the Cybernetic Revolution 

David L. Ferro is an associate professor in computer science at Weber State University 
with a Ph.D. in science and technology studies from Virginia Tech. His interests range 
from a cultural and historical understanding of technological development to research 
in user interface design. He currently is finishing the second edition of a computer sci- 
ence textbook and editing a multidisciplinary volume from McFarland with Eric G. 
Swedin on the influence of science fiction on computer development. 

Veronique Flambard-Weisbart is associate professor of Erench at Loyola Maramount 
University, director of the University’s Study Abroad Program, coauthor of Scen@rios: 
Pedagogies du Virtuel (2006), and an expert in martial arts. 

Kirk Hampton has published two novels in the style of “Wakean science fantasy” — T/je 
Moonhare (1996) and Lisho (2002) — as well as four conference papers coauthored with 
Carol MacKay. He currently produces and stars in a weekly cable television show for 
Public Access in Austin, Texas. 

Veronica Hollinger is a professor of cultural studies at Trent University in Peterborough, 
Ontario. She is coeditor of Science Fiction Studies and a member of the editorial board 
of Liverpool University Press’s Science Fiction Texts and Studies series. Her publications 
include articles on feminist and queer sf, cyberpunk, postmodernism, and posthuman- 
ism. Her most recent coedited collection is Queer Universes: Sexualities in Science Fiction 

Brooks Landon teaches English at the University of Iowa, where he directs the General 
Education Literature Program. He is the author of Science Fiction After 1900: From the 
Steam Man to the Stars and numerous articles on science fiction and science fiction 

Rob Latham is an associate professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. 
A coeditor of the journal Science Fiction Studies since 1997, he is the author of Consuming 



About the Contributors 

Youth: Vampires, Cyborgs, and the Culture of Consumption (2002) and has written articles 
on a wide range of authors and filmmakers, including Kathy Acker, J. G. Ballard, Richard 
Calder, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, Kim Newman, and Robert Silverberg. He is 
writing a book on New Wave science fiction of the 1960s and 1970s. 

Lynne Lundquist, a longtime instructor in the Theatre and Dance Department at Cal- 
ifornia State University, Fullerton, has published on children’s science fiction and fantasy 
in Childrens Literature Review, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, the journal Extrapolation, 
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and three scholarly antholo- 

Carol MacKay is distinguished teaching professor of English at the University of Texas 
at Austin. Editor of two works on Thackeray and Dickens, she is also the author of Solil- 
oquy in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (1987) and Creative Negativity: Four Victorian Exem- 
plars of the Female Quest (2001) . She recently published a critical edition of Annie Besant’s 
1885 Autobiographical Sketches (2009). 

Richard L. McKinney was born and raised in the United States and has lived in Sweden 
since 1968. Previously a student counselor and librarian at the Human Ecology Division 
at Lund University, he is now affiliated with the University’s Centre for Languages and 
Literature. His current research involves fictional worlds in contemporary popular 
fiction, focusing on four genres (science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and crime 
fiction) in three media (literature, cinema, and television). 

Sharalyn Orbaugh is a professor jointly appointed in the departments of Asian Studies 
and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of British Columbia. Her research 
focuses on representations of embodied states in the literature and popular culture of 
modern Japan. Her recent publications include “Emotional Infectivity: The Japanese 
Cyborg and the Limits of the Human” (Mechademia, volume 3, 2008) and Japanese Fic- 
tion of the Allied Occupation: Vision, Embodiment, Identity (2007). 

Eric G. Swedin is an associate professor in information systems at Weber State University 
with a Ph.D. in the history of science and technology from Case Western Reserve Uni- 
versity. He has published five books on historical topics and a mystery novel. 

Gary Westfahl, who teaches at the University of California, Riverside, and the University 
of LaVerne, is the author, editor, or coeditor of 21 books on science fiction and fantasy, 
as well as hundreds of articles, reviews, and reference book entries. In 2003, he received 
the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Award for lifetime contributions to 
science fiction and fantasy scholarship. 

Wong Kin Yuen teaches intercultural studies, technoscience culture and science fiction. 
Currently, he is a professor and department head of the English Department at Hong 
Kong Shue Yan University. His research interests include ecological ethics, popular sci- 
ence and aesthetics and comparative poetics. His books include The Sublime: East and 
West and Cultural Posthumanism, and he co-edited of World Weavers: Globalization, Sci- 
ence Fiction, and the Cybernetic Revolution. 


Aarseth, Espen 215 

Abbate, Janet 116, 118n 

Abdulmutallab, Umar Farouk 125, 126 

“Acid Head Wars” series (Aldiss) 129 

“Adapter” (Leinster) 105 

Against the Fall of Night (Clarke) 67, 143, 166 

The Age of Spiritual Machines (Kurzweil) 


“Agrippa” (Gibson) 215 
Akira 90-91, 92, 100, 102n 
Alain of Lille 113 

Aldiss, Brian W. 63n, 72, 129; “Acid Head 
Wars” series 129; Barefoot in the Head 129; 
“Supertoys Last All Summer Long” 63n 
Alexander the Great 160-161 
Algernon, Charlie, and! (Keyes) 39-40n 
Alien 50n 

Alien Encounters (Rose) 66 
Aliens 102n 

All Tomorrow's Parties (Gibson) 53-54, 62- 

Alliance-Union series (Cherryh) 74-75 

Alvarado, Rafael C. 116, 118n 

Amazing Stories 2, 219n 

“Amnesty” (Butler) 214 

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact 112 

Anderson, Chester 129; The Butterfly Kid 129 

Andromeda 76 

Anna Karenina [Tolstoy] 26 

The Annals of the Heechee (Pohl) 168 

Anno Hideaki 91, 102n 

“Antoine Doinel” films 192 

Antonelli, Kay McNulty Mauchly 199 

Appadurai, Arjun 174 

Aristotle 81, 217 

The Artful Universe {B^rrow) 185n 
“As We May Think” (Bush) 111, 118n 
Ashes to Ashes 11 

Asimov, Isaac 9, 44, 49n, 63n, 68-69, 105, 
112, 114-115, 116, 130, 165, 168, 169-170n; 
The Caves of Steel 68-69; Forward the 
Foundation 165; Foundation and Earth 49n; 
Eoundation series 49n, 169-170n; Founda- 
tion trilogy 49n, 130, 165; Foundations 
Edge 49n, 165; 1, Robot 44, 63n; The Naked 

Sun 69; Prelude to Foundation 49n, 165; 
Robots series 68, 165 
Asimov’s Science Fiction 32 
Astounding Science Fiction 2, 49n, 105, 112, 

At Full Speed (Yau) 189-190 
The Atlantic Monthly 111 
Austin, J.L. 61n 

Australian Science Fiction Review 132 
Avalon 94 
Avatar 73-74 
Avedon, Richard 192 

Babbage, Charles 209 
Babylon 5 76 

Bainbridge, William Sims 117n 
Balaban, Bob 147 

Ballard, J.G. 128-129; “Which Way to Inner 
Space?” 128-129 
Banks, Iain M. 74 
Bardini, Thierry 116, 118n 
Barefoot in the Head (Aldiss) 129 
Barnes, John 217-218 
Barrow, John D. 185n; The Artful Universe 

Battlestar Galactica 76 
Baxter, Stephen 74, 157-164; Firstborn (with 
Clarke) 159, 160, 161, 162-163, 164; Sun- 
storm (with Clarke) 161-162; A Time 
Odyssey trilogy (with Clarke) 158-164, 165, 
166, 167; Time’s Eye (with Clarke) 158-159, 
160-161, 162, 163-164 
Bazin, Andre 190-191 
Bear, Greg 73, 74; Eon 73 
“Beast-Killer” (Kirby) 138-139 
The Beatles 120-127 

The Beauty of Fractals (Peitgen and Richter) 

Beckett, Chris 217; “The Marriage of Sky 
and Sea” 217 

Becoming Virtual (Levy) 186n 
“Beep” (Blish) 46 

Beethoven, Ludwig van 122; “Ode to Joy” 


Beggars and Choosers (Kress) 28, 30-31 




“Beggars in Spain” (Kress) 28 
Beggars in Spain (Kress) 28-29 
Beggars Ride (Kress) 28 
Behm, Marc 122 
Beineix, Jean-Jacques 192 
Benford, Gregory 5, 225 
Bergson, Henri 172, 178 
Berserker series (Saberhagen) 45 
Besson, Luc 195 

Bester, Alfred 51n; The Stars My Destination 
5 In 

Between Planets (Heinlein) 50n 

Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (Pohl) 168 

Bhabha, Homi 172 

The Blade 196 

Blade Runner 18, 44, 70 

Blake, William 44 

Blier, Bertrand 192 

Blish, James 46, 69; “Beep” 46; A Torrent of 
Faces (with Knight) 69 
“The Blown Mind on Film” (Breen) 131-133 
Boccioni, Umberto lOln 
Bogart, Humphrey 221 
Bogue, Ronald 178, 181-182 
Bolter, Jay 215 
Booker, M. Keith 74 
Bordwell, David 182 
Bova, Ben 71; Mars 71 
The Boy Who Would Live Forever (Pohl) 168 
Bradbury, Ray 11, 71, 131; The Martian 
Chronicles 71 

Bradley, Marion Zimmer 131-132 
Brainstorm 47 
Brazil 70, 77 
Breathless 192, 193, 194 
Breen, Walter 131-133; “The Blown Mind on 
Film” 131-133 
Bresson, Robert 191-192 
Brin, David 14, 74, 165; Startide Rising 165 
Bron, Eleanor 122 
Brosnan, John 131 
Brotherhood of the Wolf 194-196 
Brown, Fredric 217; “Etaoin Shrdlu” 217 
Brown, Richard Harvey 36 
Brunner, John 51n, 69, 77; The Shockwave 
Rider 51n; Stand on Zanzibar 69; The 
Whole Man 11 
Buchanan, Ian 176 
Buddha 93, 94 

Budrys, Algis 49n, 73; Michaelmas 49n; 

Rogue Moon 73 
Bukatman, Scott 70 
Bullough, Edward 33 
Burke, Edmund 68 
Burroughs, William S. 129 
Bush, Vannevar 111, 118n; “As We May 
Think” 111, 118n 
Butler, Andrew M. 69, 82n 
Butler, Judith 56, 60-61n, 62n 
Butler, Octavia E. 214; “Amnesty” 214 
The Butterfly Kid {Anderson) 129 

Cadigan, Pat 63n; “Pretty Boy Crossover” 63n 

Les Cahiers du Cinema 190,191 

Cameron, James 13-14 

Campbell, John W., Jr. 2-3, 115, 118n 

“The Capture ofX-15” (Kirby) 142 

Cargill, Patrick 125 

Carlson, Marvin 61 

Carr, Terry 164-165; “The Dance of the 
Changer and the Three” 164-165 
Cartier-Bresson, Henri 192 
Cartmill, Cleve 112-113; “Deadline” 112-113 
Cavallaro, Dani 102n 
The Caves of Steel {Asimov) 68-69 
The Cell 76-77 
Ceruzzi, Paul 116, 118n 
Chan, Amy Kit-sze 5, 211n 
Chang Cheh 194,195-196 
Charly 26 

Chaung Tzu 178-179, 182, 183, 187n; The 
Complete Works of Chuang Tzu 187n 
Cherryh, C.J. 74-75; Alliance-Union series 

Childhood's End (Clarke) 132, 143, 144, 165, 

Chow Yun-Fat 181 
Chroma (Loyer) 216, 218 
Chungking Express 192-193 
Cinema 1 (Deleuze) 179 
The City and the Stars (Clarke) 67-68, 143 
Cixous, Helene 200, 201, 202, 205; The 
Newly Born Woman (with Clement) 205 
Clarens, Carlos 90 

Clarke, Arthur C. 16, 44, 67-68, 71, 73, 80- 
81, 132, 133, 135-168; Against the Fall of 
Night 67, 143, 166; Childhood's End 132, 143, 
144, 165, 166; The City and the Stars 67-68, 
143; Earthlight 132; Fall ofMoondust 71; 
Firstborn (with Baxter) 159, 160, 161, 162- 
163, 164; Imperial Earth 133; The Last Theo- 
rem (with Pohl) 157, 167; The Lost Worlds of 
2001 136-137; “A Meeting with Medusa” 

145; Profiles of the Future 80-81; Rama tril- 
ogy (with Lee) 158; Rendezvous with Rama 
73; Sunstorm (with Baxter) 161-162; 3001: 
The Final Odyssey 154-157, 159, 167; A Time 
Odyssey trilogy (with Baxter) 158-164, 165, 
166, 167; Time's Eye (with Baxter) 158-159, 
160-161, 162, 163-164; 2001: A Space 
Odyssey 16, 44, 45, 135-168; 2061: Odyssey 
Three 152-153; 2010: Odyssey Two 45, 50n, 
143-147, 148, 149, 151, 152, 153, 155 
Clement, Catherine 205; The Newly Born 
Woman (with Cixous) 205 
Clement, Hal 71-72, 82n; Mission of Gravity 
71-72; “Whirligig World” 82n 
Close Encounters of the Third Kind 46-47 
Clute, John 133 

“The Cold Equations” (Godwin) 215 
Cole, Alonzo Deen 114 
Collateral 80 
Collier's 109 



The Complete Beatles Chronicle (Lewisohn) 

Confucius 179 

Constantine, Storm 62-63n; “Immaculate” 
Contempt 193 
Corradini, Bruno lOln 
Count Zero {Gibson) 19, 62-63n 
Coyote (Steele) 72 
Coyote series (Steele) 72 
Creatures of Prometheus (Kaufman-Osborn) 
187n, 202 

Crime and Punishment (Dostoyevsky) 26 
Cronenberg, David 77 
Crossfire (Kress) 72 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 181-182, 195 
Crucible (Kress) 72 
Crying Freeman 194 
Csicsery-Ronay, Istvan, Ir. 62 

Dadlez, Eva 39n 
Damasio, Antonio R. 24 
“The Dance of the Changer and the Three” 
(Carr) 164-165 
Dark City 70-71 
Davies, Tony 60-61n 
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) 42-43, 
50n, 165 

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) 43 
“Deadline” (Cartmill) 112-113 
Dean, Kenneth 188n 
de Camp, L. Sprague 112, 114-115 
A Deepness in the Sky (Vinge) 38,75 
De Landa, Manuel 176-177, 179, 183, 188n 
Deleuze, Gilles 171, 172, 175, 176, 177, 178, 
179, 180, 183, 184, 186n, 187n, 188n, 198, 
206, 207, 208, 210; Cinema 1 179; Difference 
and Repetition 178, 184, 187n; Empiricism 
and Subjectivity 187n; A Thousand Plateaus 
(with Guattari) 177, 179, 187n, 188n; What 
Is Philosophy? (with Guattari) 187n 
del Rey, Lester 130, 132, 133-134 
“Demon with a Glass Hand” {The Outer Lim- 
its) 50n 

De Palma, Brian 71 
Derrida, lacques 55, 61n, 173 
Desk Set 111 
Devereaux, Mary 34 
The Diamond Age (Stephenson) 65 
Diana, Princess 20 
Diaspora (Egan) 54-55, 61n 
Dick, Philip K. 50n, 63n; Do Androids 
Dream of Electric Sheep? 50n, 63n; “The 
Electric Ant” 63n 

Difference and Repetition (Deleuze) 178, 184, 

Disch, Thomas M. 129-130 
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Dick) 
50n, 63n 

Doctorow, Cory 214, 218; Down and Out in 
the Magic Kingdom 218 

Dolezel, Lubomir 79 
Domingo, Placido 17 
D’Onofrio, Vincent 77 
A Door into Ocean (Slonczewski) 72 
Dower, lohn lOln 

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (Doc- 
torow) 218 

Dozois, Gardner 214-215; The Year s Best Sci- 
ence Fiction: Twenty-First Annual Edition 214 
The Dream Master (Zelazny) 26, lb-11 
Duncan, Andy 105 
Dune (Herbert) 72 
Dune series (Herbert) 72 

Eagle Eye 44, 48 
Earthlight (Clarke) 132 
Ebert, Roger 193-194 
Edison, Thomas Alva 109, 161, 163 
Edison s Conquest of Mars (Serviss) 161 
Egan, Greg 53, 54-55, 61n, 63n; Diaspora 
54-55, 61n; Permutation City 61n; “Rea- 
sons to Be Cheerful” 63n 
Einstein, Albert 113 
Eisenstein, Alex 131 
Eisley, Barry 80; lohn Rain series 80 
Elcar, Dana 147 
“The Electric Ant” (Dick) 63n 
Ellison, Harlan 9, 11, 12-13, 50n; ‘“Repent, 
Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” 12-13 
Emotional Reason {Helm) 24-25 
Empiricism and Subjectivity (Deleuze) 187n 
“Encounter at Earpoint” {Star Trek: The Next 
Generation) 166 

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies 
(Hardy) 120 

Engelbart, Douglas 111, 118n 
The Entire and the Rose (Kenyon) 78-79 
Eon (Bear) 73 
Esquire 113 

“Etaoin Shrdlu” (Brown) 217 
Evers, Earl 131; “Primer for Heads” 131 
eXistenZ 11 

Exploring Technology and Social Space (Wise) 

Extremes (Rusch) 71 

A Eall of Moondust (Clarke) 71 

Eallen Angels 192-193 

The Fantastic Four 178 

Far Horizons {Silverherg) 28 

Parnell, Ross 61 

Far scape 16 

Faulkner, William 64 

Peenberg, Andrew 176 

La Femma Nikita 195 

Ferro, David L. 4, 107 

Le Figaro 85 

Finnegans Wake (Joyce) 129 
A Fire Upon the Deep (Vinge) 38-39, 75, 77 
Firefly 76 

“First Contact” (Leinster) 110 



Firstborn (Clarke and Baxter) 159, 160, 161, 
162-163, 164 
Fisher, Raymond 130 
Flambard-Weisbart, Veronique 5 
“Flowers for Algernon” (Keyes) 26-28, 31, 

39, 39-40n 

Flowers for Algernon (Keyes) 26 
“Flowers in the Attic” 108 
The Fly (1958) 47 
The Fly (1986) 47 

“For I Have Touched the Sky” (Resnick) 202 
Forbidden Planet 47, 51n, 73, 116 
Fort, Charles 5 In 

Forward the Foundation (Asimov) 165 
Foucault, Michel 60, 173-174,175 
Foundation and Earth (Asimov) 49n 
Foundation series (Asimov) 49n, 169-170n 
Foundation trilogy (Asimov) 49n, 130, 165 
Foundations Edge (Asimov) 49n, 165 
The 400 Blows 192 
Frank, Robert 192 
Frankenstein 44 

Frankenstein (Shelley) 44, 46, 50n, 58, 218 
Franklin, H. Bruce 219 
Frenkel, James 51n; True Names and the 
Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier 51n 
Freud, Sigmund 200, 204 
Future Shock (Toffler) 1, 51n 

Gadamer, Han-George 173 

Gagarin, Yuri 16 

Galaxy 130 

Galileo Galilei 113 

Gans, Christopher 190, 193, 194-197 

Gao Yinxian 211-212n 

Garfield, James 105 

Garrett, Randall 77-78; Lord Darcy series 

Gateway (Pohl) 167-168 

The Gateway Trip (Pohl) 167-168 

Geis, Richard 131 

Genette, Gerard 189, 190; Palimpsestes 189 

Genghis Khan 160-161 

Gernsback, Hugo 1-2, 6n, 10-11, 13, 113; 

Ralph 124C 4i+ 10-11, 13 
Ghost in the Shell 94, 181 
Gibson, William 9, 19, 47, 48, 50n, 51n, 53- 
54, 55, 59, 61n, 62-63n, 215; “Agrippa” 215; 
All Tomorrow’s Parties 53-54, 62-63n; 
Count Zero 19, 62-63n; Idoru 53-54, 55, 

59, 61n, 62-63n; “Johnny Mnemonic” 47, 
48, 50n; Neuromancer 48, 61n 
Giger, H.R. 43 
Gilliam, Terry 70 

“The Girl Who Was Plugged In” (Tiptree) 

26, 34, 39, 62-63n 
The Glass Bead Game (Hesse) 46 
Godard, Jean-Luc 190-191, 192-193, 194, 196 
Gong Zhebing 211-212n; Nu Shu (with Zhao) 

Goonan, Kathleen Ann 65; Queen City Jazz 65 

Gore, A1 216 

Gould, Steven 5ln; Jumper 5ln 
Graham, Elaine L. 52, 55, 60, 62n; Represen- 
tations ofthePost/Jiuman 52, 55, 62n 
Greenberg, Martin H. 105 
Guattari, Felix 177, 179, 186n, 187n, 188n, 

198, 207, 208, 210; A Thousand Plateaus 
(with Deleuze) 177, 179, 187n, 188n; What 
Is Philosophy? (with Deleuze) 187n 
Gunn, James 19; The Joy Makers 19 
Gutenberg, Johannes 215 

Habermas, Jurgen 173 
Hamilton, Peter F. 74 
Hampton, Kirk 4 
Hansen, Mark 173 
Happy Together 192-193 
Haraway, Donna 61n, 172, 175, 198, 200, 209 
A Hard Day’s Night 120 
Hardy, Phil 120; The Encyclopedia of Science 
Fiction Movies 120 
Harrison, George 120-127 
Harrison, Harry 69; Make Room! Make 
Room! 69 

Harrison, M. John 74 

Hartwell, David G. 214-215, 217; Year’s Best 
SF 6 (with Cramer) 217; Year’s Best SF 9 
(with Cramer) 214-215 
Havens, Thomas lOln 

Hayles, N. Katherine 52-53, 54, 55, 60, 60n, 
63n, 175, 176, 213, 215, 216, 218; How We 
Became Posthuman 52-53, 54, 55, 60n, 

63n; Writing Machines 216 
Heaney, Seamus 64 
Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber 184 
Heechee Rendezvous (Pohl) 168 
Heidegger, Martin 175 
Heinlein, Robert A. 13, 50n, 112; Between 
Planets 50n; “Where To?” 13 
Helm, Bennett W. 24-25; Emotional Reason 

Help! 5, 120-127 

“Help!” (Lennon and McCartney) 127 

Hepburn, Katharine 111 

Herbert, Frank 72; Dune 72; Dune series 72 

Hero 179-180, 188n 

Hess, John 191 

Hesse, Hermann 46; The Glass Bead Game 46 
Hirato Renkichi 85-86 
Hiroshima, My Love 192 
Hitler, Adolf 34 
Hoffman, Anthony 71 
Hollinger, Veronica 4 
Homer 135; The Odyssey 135 
Hopper, Grace 110, 111, 112 
Horne, Richard 12; Where’s My Jetpack? (with 
Wilson) 12 
Horton, Rich 65 
“Hotline to Hades” (Kirby) 142 
How We Became Posthuman (Hayles) 52-53, 
54, 55, 60n, 63n 



Howe, Elias 124 
Hu, King 194 

Humphreys, Richard 84-85, 91, lOln 
Hyams, Peter 147-152 

I, Robot 65, 71 

/, Robot (Asimov) 44, 63n 

Idoru (Gibson) 53-54, 55, 59, 61n, 62-63n 

leyasu. Shogun Tokugawa lOOn 

“Immaculate” (Constantine) 62-63 

Imperial Earth {CXzxkt) 133 

In Search of Wonder (Knight) 14 

In the Mood for Love 192-193 

Inagaki Taruho 85-86 

Innocence 94, 102n 

“Inter-Galactica: The Ultimate Trip” (Kirby) 

Interzone 217 

Iragaway, Luce 200-201, 202, 206 

Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 28 

Ito Kazunori 94 

Ivins, Bruce E. 124 

Ivory, James 195 

Jackson, Shelley 216, 218; Patchwork Girl 216, 

Jacquard, Joseph-Marie 209 

James, Henry 81 

Jervis, John 62n 

letpack Dreams (Montadon) 12 

The letsons 13 

Jin Yong [Louis Cha] 184 

John Rain series (Eisler) 80 

“Johnny Mnemonic” (Gibson) 47, 48, 50b 

Jones, Duncan 73 

Jones, Gwyneth 66 

The loy Makers (Gunn) 19 

Joyce, James 129; Finnegans Wake 129 

lumper 51n 

lumper (Gould) 51n 

KanbaraTai 85-86 

Kaufman-Osborn, Timothy V. 179, 187n, 198, 
199, 202; Creatures of Prometheus 187n, 202 
Kawaii Kanji 98 
Kay, Alan 116 

Keller, David H. 11; “The Revolt of the 
Pedestrians” 11 

Kelly, James Patrick 32-33; “Think Like a 
Dinosaur” 32-33 
Kennedy, Barbara M. 184-185 
Kenyon, Kay 78-79; The Entire and the Rose 

Keyes, Daniel 26-28, 31, 39 -4Qn; Algernon, 
Charlie, and 1 39-40n; “Flowers for Alger- 
non” 26-28, 31, 39, 39-40n; Flowers for Al- 
gernon 26 
Kinnear, Ray 123 
Kipling, Rudyard 160-161 
Kirby, David 116, 118n 
Kirby, Jack 137-143, 164, 165, 168; “Beast- 

Killer” 138-139; “The Capture ofX-15” 

142; “Hotline to Hades” 142; “Inter-Galac- 
tica: The Ultimate Trip” 140; “Marak!” 140; 
“Mister Machine” 142; “Monolith Mail” 
139-140; “The New Seed” 141-142; “Nor- 
ton of New York 2040 A.d.” 140; 2001: A 
Space Odyssey (comic book) 137-143; 2001: 
A Space Odyssey (Marvel Treasury Edition) 
137-138; “Vira the She-Demon” 140; 
“Wheels of Death” 139-140 
Knievel, Evel 35 

Knight, Damon 14; In Search of Wonder 14 
Knight, Norman L. 69; A Torrent of Faces 
(with Blish) 69 

The Known and the Unknown (Wolfe) 65-66 
Kress, Nancy 28-31, 72; Beggars and 

Choosers 28, 30-31; “Beggars in Spain” 28; 
Beggars in Spain 28-29; Beggars Ride 28; 
Crossfire 72; Crucible 72; “Sleeping Dogs” 
28; Sleepless series 28-31, 39 
Kube-McDowell, Michael 157 
Kubrick, Stanley 128, 130, 131, 132, 133, 135, 
139, 147, 148, 157 

Kurzweil, Ray 175, 186n; The Age of Spiritual 
Machines 186n 

Labyrinth of Night (Steele) 73 
Lacan, Jacques 210 
Lacerba 87 

Lake, Jay 78; Mainspring 78 

Lamarre, Thomas 180, 188n, 206 

Landon, Brooks 5 

Lang, Fritz 69 

Langford, David 74 

Lanham, Richard A. 215 

Lao Tzu 183; Tao-te Ching 183 

Last and First Men (Stapledon) 165-166 

Last Men in London (Stapledon) 165-166 

The Last Theorem (Clarke and Pohl) 157, 167 

Latham, Rob 5 

Latour, Bruno 174, 175, 186n; Politics of Na- 
ture 186n 

The Lawnmower Man 116 
Lee, Ang 195 
Lee, Bruce 183 

Lee, Gentry 157, 158; Rama trilogy (with 
Clarke) 158 

Le Guin, Ursula K. 115 
Leinster, Murray [Will F. Jenkins] 4, 41, 42, 
49n, 104-117, 118n; “Adapter” 105; “First 
Contact” 110; “Letter from Jenkins Dated 
July 19, 1950” 117n; “A Logic Named Joe” 4, 
41, 42, 49n, 104-117; A Logic Named loe 
105; The Murder of the U.S.A. 112; “Politics” 
118n; Sidewise in Time and Other Scientific 
Adventures 105; “To Build a Robot Brain” 
110; “What the Atom Bomb Will Mean to 
the Average American Housewife” 111-112 
Lem, Stanislaw 47, 73, 164-165; Solaris 47, 

73, 164-165 

Lennon, John 120-127; “Help!” (with Me- 



Cartney) 127; “Ticket to Ride” (with Mc- 
Cartney) 121 

Lensmen series (Smith) 42, 43 
The Lesbian Body (Wittig) 201 
Lester, Richard 120 

“Letter from Jenkins Dated July 19, 1950” 
(Leinster) 117n 

Levy, Pierre 186n; Becoming Virtual 186n 
Lewisohn, Mark 127n; The Complete Beatles 
Chronicle 127n 

Lewitt, Shariann 63n; “A Real Girl” 63n 
Li, Jet 181, 196 

Li Jinglin 212n; Nu Shu Yu Shi Gian Tao Wen 
Yan Jill 212n 

Licklidder, J.C.R. Ill, 116, 118n 
Life on Mars 11 
Lithgow, John 147 
“A Little Princess” 108 
The Living Machine 111 
Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction 
Field 105 
Logans Run 45 

“A Logic Named Joe” (Leinster) 4, 41, 42, 
49n, 104-117 

A Logic Named Joe {Leinster) 105 
“A Logic Named Joe” (1950 radio program) 

“A Logic Named Joe” (1955 radio program) 

Lolita (Nabokov) 26 

Lopez, Jennifer 77 

Lord Darcy series (Garrett) 77-78 

The Los Angeles Times 20, 124 

The Lost Worlds of 2001 (Clarke) 136-137 

Lovelace, Ada 209, 211n 

Loves Knowledge (Nussbaum) 25 

Loyer, Eric 216, 218; Chroma 216, 218 

Lundquist, Lynne 5 

Machine Man 142-143 
MacKay, Carol 4 
MacLeod, Ken 74 
Madonna 17 

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 26 

Maguire, Tobey 79 

Mainspring {Lake) 78 

Make Room! Make Room! (Harrison) 69 

Malmgren, Carl D. 66 

Malpas, J.E. 64 

The Man in the Maze (Silverberg) 73 

Mann, Michael 80 

Manorich, Lev 181 

“Marak!” (Kirby) 140 

Marcos, Imelda 126-127 

Marinetti, F.X 85, 86, 87, 88, 95, lOln 

“The Marriage of Sky and Sea” (Beckett) 217 

Mars (Bova) 71 

Mars trilogy (Robinson) 71 

The Martian Chronicles (Bradbury) 71 

Massumi, Brian 185, 188n 

The Matrix 48, 180-181, 182 

Matrix trilogy 77 
Max Headroom 48 
McAuley, Paul 74 

McCaffrey, Anne 62-63n; “The Ship Who 
Sang” 62-63n 

McCartney, Paul 120-127; “Help!” (with 
Lennon) 127; “Ticket to Ride” (with 
Lennon) 121 
McGuirk, Carol 62n 
McKern, Leo 121 
McKinney, Richard L. 4 
McQuay, Mike 157 

“A Meeting with Medusa” (Clarke) 145 

Melville, Jean-Pierre 191-192 

Merchant, Ismail 195 

Metcalfe, Bob 209 

Metropolis 50n, 62-63n, 69-70 

Michaelmas (Budrys) 49m 

“The Midas Plague” (Pohl) 14 

Milton, John 76; Paradise Lost 76 

Mirren, Helen 147 

Mission o/ Gravity (Clement) 71-72 

Mission to Mars 71 

“Mister Machine” (Kirby) 142 

Mon Cine Club 193, 197n 

“Monolith Mail” (Kirby) 139-140 

Monroe, Marilyn 221 

Montadon, Mac 12; Jetpack Dreams 12 

Moon 73 

Moorcock, Michael 129-130, 133; “Symbols 
for the Sixties” 129 

Moore, C.L. 4, 56, 58-59, 62-63n; “No 
Woman Born” 56, 58-59, 60, 62-63n 
Mori Ogai 85 
Moulthrop, Stuart 215 
The Murder of the U.S.A. (Leinster) 112 
Murphy, Pat 63n; “Rachel in Love” 63n 
Murphy, Timothy S. 187n 
Mussolini, Benito 86, lOln 

The Naked Sun (Asimov) 69 
Napier, Susan 90, 102n 
Necronomicon 194 

Neon Genesis Evangelion 90, 91-92, 100, 102n 
The Net 48 

Neuromancer (Gibson) 48, 61n 
New Dimensions 3 (Silverberg) 35 
The New One-Armed Swordsman 195-196 
“The New Seed” (Kirby) 141-142 
New Worlds 128-130, 133 
New Worlds Ten (Bailey) 133 
The New York Review of Science Fiction 215 
The Newly Born Woman (Cixous and Cle- 
ment) 205 
Newton, Isaac 133 
Nietzsche, Friedrich 36-37 
Nineteen Eighty-Four (Orwell) 12, 43, 44, 48, 

Niven, Larry 43, 73; Ringworld 73 
“No Woman Born” (Moore) 56, 58-59, 60, 



“Norton of New York 2040 a.d.” (Kirby) 140 
Novik, Naomi 77-78; Temeraire series 77-78 
Nu Shu (Gong and Zhao) 211-212n 
Nu Shu Yu Shi Gian Tao Wen Yan Jiu (Li) 

Nussbaum, Martha C. 25, 81; Love’s Knowl- 
edge 25; Poetic Justice 25; Upheavals of 
Thought 25 

Oberg, Kalervo 1 
Odd 130 

“Ode to Joy” (Beethoven) 122 
The Odyssey (Homer) 135 
OkadaTatsuo 85-86 

Okuda, Michael 50-51n; Star Trek: The Next 
Generation Technical Manual (with Stern- 
hach) 50-51n 
The One 181 

The One-Armed Swordsman 195 
Orbaugh, Sharalyn 4, 84, 102n 
Orhitsville (Shaw) 83 
Orwell, George 12, 43, 44, 48, 50n, 225; 

Nineteen Eighty-Four 12, 43, 44, 48, 50n 
Oshii Mamoru 94, 95, 96, 98, 102-103n 
Otomo Katsuhiro 90, 92 
The Outer Limits 50n; “Demon with a Glass 
Hand” 50n 

Palimpsestes (Genette) 189 
Palmer, Alan 79 
Paradise Lost (Milton) 76 
Parfit, Derek 51n 

The Patchwork Girl (Jackson) 216, 218 
Patlahorl 90, 94-100, 102n, 103n 
Peitgen, Heinz-Otto 185n; The Beauty of 
Fractals (with Richter) 185n 
Permutation City (Egan) 61n 
Pialat, Maurice 192 
Pierce, John J. 130 
Pleasantville 79 
Poetic Justice (Nussbaum) 25 
Pohl, Frederik 14, 37, 130, 131, 132, 133, 157, 
167-168; The Annals of the Heechee 168; Be- 
yond the Blue Event Horizon 168; The Boy 
Who Would Live Forever 168; Gateway 167- 
168; The Gateway Trip 168; Heechee Ren- 
dezvous 168; The Last Theorem (with 
Clarke) 157, 167; “The Midas Plague” 14 
Pohl, Frederik, IV 131, 132 
“Politics” (Leinster) 118n 
Politics of Nature (Latour) 186n 
Prelude to Foundation (Asimov) 49n, 165 
Presley, Elvis 17 

“Pretty Boy Crossover” (Cadigan) 63n 
“Primer for Heads” (Evers) 131 
Profiles of the Future {Ciarke) 80-81 
Proust, Marcel 25, 39n, 64, 81; Remembrance 
of Things Past 39n 
Proyas, Alex 65, 70-71 
Psychotic 131 

Queen City Jazz (Goonan) 65 

Rabkin, Eric S. 216; Science Fiction: History, 
Science, Vision (with Scholes) 216 
“Rachel in Love” (Murphy) 63n 
Rain, Douglas 147-148 
Ralph 124C 41+ {Gernshack) 10-11,13 
Rama trilogy (Clarke and Lee) 158 
Rayward, W. Boyd 50n 
Reagan, Ronald 11, 48 
“A Real Girl” (Lewitt) 63n 
“Reasons to Be Cheerful” (Egan) 63n 
Ret/ Mars (Robinson) 72 
Red Planet 71 
Reeves, Keanu 180 

Reich, Kathy 80; Temperance Brennan series 

Remembrance of Things Past (Proust) 39n 
Renaissance 130 

Rendezvous with Rama (Clarke) 73 
“‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” 
(Ellison) 12-13 

Representations of the Post/Human (Graham) 
52, 55, 62n 

Resnais, Alain 191, 192 
Resnick, Mike 202; “For I Have Touched the 
Sky” 202 

Retrieval Artist series (Rusch) 71 
“The Revolt of the Pedestrians” (Keller) 11 
Reynolds, Alastair 74 
Rhesus Zero 194 

Richter, Peter H. 185n; The Beauty of Fractals 
(with Peitgen) 185n 
Riefenstahl, Leni 34 
Ringworld (Niven) 73 
Rivette, Jacques 190-191 
Roberts, Ed 116 
Robertson, Cliff 26 
Robertson, Jennifer lOln 
Robinson, Kim Stanley 71, 72; Mars trilogy 
71, 72; Red Mars 72 
Robots series (Asimov) 68, 165 
Robson, Justina 74 
Rodriguez, Alex 17 
Rogue Moon (Budrys) 73 
Rohmer, Eric 190-191 
Rdjin Z 90, 92-94, 95, 96, 97-98, 103n 
Rose, Mark 66; Alien Encounters 66 
Ross, Gary 79 
Roszak, Theodore 130 
Ruh, Brian 102n 

Rusch, Kristine Kathryn 71; Extremes 71; Re- 
trieval Artist series 71 
Rushdie, Salman 64 
Ryan, Marie-Louise 79-80, 83n 

Saberhagen, Fred 45; Berserker series 45 
Sant’Elia, Antonio 84, 87-88, 89, 91, 95, 99- 
100, lOOn, lOln 

Sargent, Pamela 72; Venus trilogy 72 
Saturday Evening Post 109 



“Scanners Live in Vain” (Smith) 56-58, 59, 
60, 62n 

Scheider, Roy 147 

Scholes, Robert 216; Science Fiction: History, 
Science, Vision (with Rabkin) 216 
Science Fiction Film Source Book (Wingrove) 

Science Fiction: History, Science, Vision (Sc- 
holes and Rabkin) 216 
Scott, Ridley 70 

Sector General series (White) 46-47 
Serenity 76 

Serviss, Garrett R 161; Edisons Conquest of 
Mars 161 

Settimelli, Emilio lOln 
Shakespeare, William 73; The Tempest 73 
Shaw, Bob 73; Orbitsville 73 
Shelley, Mary 44, 46, 50n; Frankenstein 44, 
46, 50n, 58, 218 

“The Ship Who Sang” (McCaffrey) 62-63n 
The Shockwave Rider (Brunner) 51n 
Sholes, Christopher Latham 199 
Sidewise in Time and Other Scientific Adven- 
tures (Leinster) 105 
Silent Hill 194 

Silverberg, Robert 28, 35, 69, 73, 129; Far 
Horizons 28; The Man in the Maze 73; New 
Dimensions 3 35; Son of Man 129; The 
World Inside 69 

Simak, Clifford D. 217; “Skirmish” 217 
Simmons, Dan 74 
Sinatra, Frank 20 
Singh, Tarsem 76 
Six Days 192-193 
“Skirmish” (Simak) 217 
Slattery, Diana 218; The Glide Project 218 
“Sleeping Dogs” (Kress) 28 
Sleepless series (Kress) 28-31, 39 
Slonczewski, Joan 72; A Door into Ocean 72 
Slusser, George 169-170n 
Smith, Cordwainer [Paul A. Linebarger] 4, 
56-58, 59, 62n; “Scanners Live in Vain” 
56-58,59, 60, 62n 

Smith, E.E. “Doc” 42, 43; Lensmen series 42, 

Smith, Jack 20 
Smith, Sarah 215 
Soja, Edward 174 
Solaris 73 

Solaris (Lem) 47,73,164-165 
Son of Man (Silverberg) 129 
Sorensen, Andre 88-89 
SoulCalibur 196 
Space Magazine 115 
Sphere 47 
Spinetti, Victor 123 
Spinoza, Baruch 178 
Stand on Zanzibar (Brunner) 69 
Stapledon, Olaf 165-166, 167; Last and First 
Men 165-166; Last Men in London 165-166; 
Star Maker 165-166, 167 

Star Maker (Stapledon) 165-166,167 
Star Trek 42, 43, 45, 48, 50-51n, 76, 83n, 94, 

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 76, 83n, 166 
Star Trek: Enterprise 83n 
Star Trek films 83n 
Star Trek: The Motion Picture 45, 46 
Star Trek: The Next Generation 50n, 51n, 
83n, 166; “Encounter at Farpoint” 166 
Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical 
Manual (Sternbach and Okuda) 50-51n 
Star Trek: Voyager 76, 83n, 166 
Starfix 194 

Starr, Ringo [Richard Starkey] 120-127 
The Stars My Destination (Bester) 51n 
Startide Rising (Brin) 165 
Steele, Allan 72, 73; Coyote 72; Coyote series 
73; Labyrinth of Night 73 
Stephenson, Neal 65; The Diamond Age 65 
Sternbach, Rick 50-51n; Star Trek: The Next 
Generation Technical Manual (with 
Okuda) 50-51n 
Strange Days 47 
Stross, Charles 214 

Sturgeon, Theodore 107; “Will Jenkins: An 
Appreciation” 107 
Subaru 85 

Sunstorm (Clarke and Baxter) 161-162 
Supermans Pal Jimmy Olsen 121 
“Supertoys Last All Summer Long” (Aldiss) 

Suvin, Darko 66 

Swedin, Eric G. 4, 107 

Sylvester, William 146, 147 

“Symbols for the Sixties” (Moorcock) 129 

Taine, John [Eric Temple Bell] 15-16; The 
Time Stream 15-16 
Tange Kenzo 10 In 
Tao-te Ching (Lao Tzu) 183 
Tarkovsky, Andrei 73 
Tati, Jacques 191-192 
Temeraire series (Novik) 11 -IS 
Temperance Brennan series (Reich) 80 
The Tempest (Shakespeare) 73 
The Terminator 45 
Terminator Salvation 45 
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 45 
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 45 
There’s Only One Sun 192-193 
“Think Like a Dinosaur” (Kelly) 26, 32-33, 

Thomas, Anne-Marie 74 
Thompson, Amy 63n; Virtual Girl 63n 
A Thousand Plateaus (Deleuze and Guattari) 
177, 179, 187n, 188n 

3001: The Final Odyssey (Clarke) 154-157, 
159, 167 

“Ticket to Ride” (Lennon and McCartney) 

The Time Machine {Wells) 43 



A Time Odyssey trilogy (Clarke and Baxter) 
158-164, 165, 166, 167 
The Time Stream (Taine) 15-16 
Time's Eye (Clarke and Baxter) 158-159, 
160-161, 162, 163-164 
Tiptree, James, Jr. [Alice Sheldon] 34, 62- 
63n; “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” 26, 
34, 39, 62-63n 

“To Build a Robot Brain” (Leinster) 110 
Today's Woman 111 

Toffler, Alvin 1, 51n; Future Shock 1, 51n 
A Torrent of Faces (Blish and Knight) 69 
Tracy, Spencer 111 
Triumph of the Will 34 
True Names (Vinge) 51n 
True Names and the Opening of the Cyber- 
space Frontier {Frenkel) 51n 
Truffaut, Francois 190-191 
Tsui Hark 196 
Tsutsui, William 88 
Turan, Kenneth 196 
Turner, George 132 

2001: A Space Odyssey 5, 45, 50n, 110, 128- 
134, 135-168 

2001: A Space Odyssey (Clarke) 16, 44, 45, 

2001: A Space Odyssey (comic book) (Kirby) 

2001: A Space Odyssey (Marvel Treasury Edi- 
tion) (Kirby) 137-138 

2010: Odyssey Two (Clarke) 45, 50n, 143-147, 
148, 149, 151, 152, 153, 155 
2010: The Year We Make Contact 146-152 
2046 192-193 

2061: Odyssey Three (Clarke) 152-153 
Unknown 219n 

Upheavals of Thought (NusshsLum) 25 

Varda, Agnes 191 
Venus trilogy (Sargent) 72 
Verne, Jules 9 

Vinge, Vernor 38-39, 51n, 74, 75; A Deepness 
in the Sky 38, 75; A Fire Upon the Deep 38- 
39, 75, 77; True Names 51n 
“Vira the She-Demon” (Kirby) 140 
Virtual Girl (Thompson) 63n 

Wachowski, Andy 77 
Wachowski, Lana 77 
Wagner, Mitch 217-218 
Wang Cheng-xi 212n 
The War of the Worlds (Wells) 158 
Warhoon 131-132 
Warrick, Patricia 105 
Watson, Burton 187n 
Webster's Dictionary 185n 
Welchman, Alistair 177 
Wells, H.G. 43, 44, 50n, 158; The Time Ma- 
chine 43; The War of the Worlds 158; World 
Brain 43, 44, 50n 

Westfahl, Gary 4, 5, 6, 9, 21, 115, 169-170n 
What Is Philosophy? (Deleuze and Guattari) 

“What the Atom Bomb Will Mean to the Av- 
erage American Housewife” (Leinster) 

Whedon, Joss 76 

“Wheels of Death” (Kirby) 139,140 
“Where To?” (Heinlein) 13 
Where's My Jetpack? (Wilson and Horne) 12 
“Which Way to Inner Space?” (Ballard) 128- 

“Whirligig World” (Clement) 82n 
White, James 46-47; Sector General series 

The Whole Man (Brunner) 77 
Wiener, Norbert 62n, 172 
Wilcox, Fred M. 73 

“Will Jenkins: An Appreciation” (Sturgeon) 

Wilson, Daniel H. 12; Where's My Jetpack? 
(with Horne) 12 

Wingrove, David 72, 120; Science Fiction 
Film Source Book 120 
Wise, George 115 

Wise, J. MacGregor 186n; Exploring Technol- 
ogy and Social Space 186n 
Witherspoon, Reese 79 
Wittig, Monique 201; The Lesbian Body 201 
Wolfe, Gary K. 65-66, 67; The Known and 
the Unknown 65-66 
Wollheim, Donald A. 129, 130 
Wong Kar-Wai 190, 192-194, 196 
Wong Kin Yuen 5, 171 
Woo, John 194, 195 
Wood, Charles 122 
Wordsworth, William 64 
World Brain (Wells) 43, 44, 50n 
The World Inside (Silverberg) 69 
Wright Brothers 16 

X~Men 178 

Yanal, Robert J. 39n 

Yau, Esther C.M. 189-190, 194, 196; At Full 
Speed 189-190 

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-First 
Annual Edition (Dozois) 214 
Year's Best SF 6 (Hartwell and Cramer) 217 
Year's Best SF 9 (Hartwell and Cramer) 214- 

Yi Nianhua 211-212n 
Yuki Masami 94 

Zelazny, Roger 26, 76-77; The Dream Master 
26, 76-77 
Zhang Ziyi 181 

Zhao Liming 211-212n; Nu Shu (with Gong) 

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